Rio Theatre: Alcohol & Movies Won’t Mix

Comments 7 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Have you ever watched a movie down South with a cold beer in your hand at establishments like the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas or Cinebarre in Washington State? Have you ever wondered why you can’t do the same in BC? Well, our BC Liquor laws state that you cannot have bar service in a movie theatre, plain and simple. This is something that the Rio Theatre has been trying to change for a long time.

Ron Sexsmith at the Rio Theatre
Photo credit: Emme Rogers on Flickr

Earlier this week we heard news that the Rio Theatre was granted their primary liquor license. A huge victory, one would think. The East Vancouver movie house could now host 19+ performances and events with a bar service and return to their regularly scheduled, dry, movie nights. Cue the record scratch.

Yesterday it was announced that the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch issued a condition to the Rio Theatre that stated that even though they’re not planning on serving alcohol during movie nights, with this new license they can’t have any movie nights. The Rio was notified of this condition orally and in writing ahead of time, per Karen Ayers, General Manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch [Vancouver Sun].

“By regulation, movie theatres are prohibited from applying for a liquor primary license. Under current regulations and policies, you cannot operate as a licensed live theatre at some times and an unlicensed movie theatre at others. Therefore the following term and condition will be placed on your liquor primary license: This establishment is not permitted to show movies or any type of cinematic screenings at any time.”

Upon receiving this notice, Corinne Lea, General Manager and Owner of the Rio Theatre made the decision to stop having movie nights [Vancouver Sun]. No more midnight screenings in costume (which I believe is a right of passage as a Vancouverite), no more cheap matinees.

“We are very disappointed that this condition has been placed on us by the LCB, as this means we will no longer be able to show our community film events such as our Midnight Movies, Movies For Mommies, The Friends of Dorothy Queer Film series, the DOXA and Out on Screen Film Festival, to name a few. In addition, we will no longer be able to support Independent film screenings for local animators and filmmakers, creating a huge void in Vancouver’s cultural fabric.”

They will be taking this up with the government but until then Lea says that the Rio will be dark on days they don’t have live events scheduled.

Follow @RioTheatre on Twitter for updates and to show your support. Quotes used in this post were issued in a Rio Theatre press release this morning.

For additional reading, check out The Tyee’s recent article: BC’s Top Five Looniest Liquor Laws. The list includes prohibiting artists on stage from drinking, no cross provincial border wine smuggling, and no happy hours.

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7 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Greg NeherFriday, January 20th, 2012 — 11:42am PST

    If you want to help fight for The Rio’s ability to screen movies, please follow our page on Facebook:

    We are sharing information on how you can get involved, whom to write letters of complaint to, and even have form letters you can use if you prefer.

    The Rio is worth fighting for!

  2. Graham BallantyneFriday, January 20th, 2012 — 11:45am PST

    If you’ve *ever* been to an event at the Rio you owe it to them to take five minutes to email your MLA, the Rio’s MLA (Jenny Kwan), the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch and their boss, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General (the Honourable Shirley Bond) and let them know what you think. I’ll make it easy for you: use the letters I just sent as a template!

  3. FunFunVancouverFriday, January 20th, 2012 — 12:03pm PST

    Hmm, have you been to the Coquitlam SilverCity and tried out their VIP experience? I just recently heard about it, and apparently they serve liquor and dinner and all that stuff there.

  4. Rio Theater, Curtain closing? « lessthan10vancouverFriday, January 20th, 2012 — 12:06pm PST

    […] In case you have been living under a rock, you are probably aware that the RIO is being strong armed to stopped showing movies. Earlier this week, they finally got their liquor primary, with a small, hidden condition that was made public later in the – they are no longer allowed to show movies. Booze or no booze. Miss604 sums it up well here […]

  5. Andrew HudsonFriday, January 20th, 2012 — 12:19pm PST

    Beyond my love of the Rio, this really isn’t about the Rio. This is about our Neanderthal laws in BC and how they need to catch up to the people they are made to serve and protect. The citizens of BC need to band together against ridiculous and out of date laws.

  6. Duane StoreySaturday, January 21st, 2012 — 4:47pm PST

    It’s not just in the United States, many other parts of the world allow this as well. I was just in Auckland, New Zealand and they definitely serve beer in the movie theatres there. You can even pay a little extra and someone will bring it to you when the movie is about to start.

  7. BC’s Archaic Liquor Laws Claim Another Casualty | The Duane StoreyWednesday, December 19th, 2012 — 6:01pm PST

    […] was reading about the Rio Theatre and their liquor license issues over at To summarize, the Rio theatre applied, and was granted, a liquor license for their movie theatre. […]

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