A split Leesburg City Commission approved the second reading of an ordinance on Monday night that paves the way for the AMC Theater inside the Lake Square Mall to serve alcohol.
The ordinance, which was opposed by Mayor John Christian, amends the 300-foot setback distance from residential property for a movie theater seeking to serve alcohol that’s located inside a larger building. To serve alcoholic beverages, that facility must have an entryway that is separate from the theater entry, with at least 100 feet walking distance between the shopping and theater entryways, according to the ordinance.
The theater in the Lake Square Mall features 12 screens but two of them didn’t meet the requirement because of their proximity to residential property. The ordinance, which was backed by commissioners Mike Pederson, Elise Dennison and Jay Hurley, eliminates that issue and will allow the theater to compete with other entertainment venues that sell alcohol. Commissioner Dan Robuck III wasn’t at the meeting.
The issue came before the commission because the movie theater industry has experienced a trend toward becoming entertainment venues, with everything from party rooms to game areas to improved seating design to offering alcoholic beverages as a menu item, said a memo submitted by Planning and Zoning Manager Dan Miller and Deputy City Manager Mike Rankin.
The mall currently is going through a revitalization program with an obvious eye toward providing entertainment venues for area residents. It also features VIA Entertainment, a 22-lane bowling center with a 10,000-square-foot arcade and party rooms, as well as indoor go-kart racing at Adrenaline Rush. So, the ability to serve alcohol at the theaters was viewed as an important addition to helping it compete with similar venues and move forward as a popular destination for Leesburg and other area residents.