Tivoli Theatre Can Serve Alcohol During Films: Village

Jan 18, 2018

After tense debate, the village council voted 6-1 Tuesday to allow Tivoli Theatre to serve alcohol during regular movies.

As its 90-year anniversary approaches, Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove is preparing to make a major change. Downers Grove Village Council approved a proposal Tuesday that would allow the iconic theatre to serve alcohol during movies, a service many chain movie theatres currently offer. The measure was approved by a 6-1 vote, with Commissioner William Waldack submitting the only opposing vote.

The Tivoli will have to limit service to one drink per person and will also include expanded food service.

At the Jan. 9 meeting, Waldack resisted the idea of keeping up with the competition. He said, “If we base all our decisions on what the neighbors are doing then it becomes an automatic race to the bottom.”

“Do adults need to have alcohol even at a showing of “Bambi?” I mean, really…is that really necessary?” Waldack added.

At the Jan. 16 meeting, Commissioner Greg Hose, who was absent from the Jan. 9 meeting, said, “I think you’ve got an ordinance here that makes an awful lot of sense to keep the Tivoli competitive with other municipalities and other theatres.”

Hose called the Tivoli Theatre “an exemplary applicant” and a “tremendous part of Downers Grove.”

Commissioner Waldack said he agreed that the Tivoli is “a special gem in Downers Grove” and called owners Willis and Shirley Johnson “pillars of the community.”

He also called the proposal “a lessening of standards,” raising concerns about what controls would be in place to prevent minors from consuming alcohol, especially if left in the hands of Tivoli employees who are under drinking age.

Waldack mentioned that the village permits what he called “spot licensing” for businesses. He said that type of licensing risks creating an attitude of “We can help those who are in our tribe or decide that we don’t want to help those who are in the other tribe.”

He closed by urging the council to apply these standards “across the board” at other village gatherings. “Don’t show favorites; don’t be hypocrites,” Waldack said.

Commissioner Bob Barnett pointed out how liquor licenses have involved during his time on the council. He called these personalized liquor licenses an “effort for the village to facilitate and be welcome to new business ideas.”

Hose called the comments about preferential treatments and tribalism disappointing and Waldack explained that he meant that “designed, or spot liquor ordinances leave open the possibility of favoritism.”

Before the vote, Mayor Martin Tully Commissioner pointed out that alcohol has been served at special events, including the “Star Wars” premiere, at the Tivoli for nearly a decade under their current license.

Tully explained that they worked for some time to come up with the expanded license for Tivoli and that it was “not simply given when it was asked.” He added that Tivoli would be subject to the same consequences for violations as other establishments.

Tully ended his closing argument by echoing an earlier statement by Commissioner Wallace thanking the community for their input on the expanded liquor sales at Tivoli.


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