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A New Virginia Law Might Bring Beer and Wine to the Byrd Theater 

click to enlarge news28_byrd_theater.jpg

Scott Elmquist

New ABC laws went into effect last week, and among them is one which could benefit Richmond’s famous movie palace, the Byrd Theatre.

Introduced by Delegate Nick Rush, the law creates a new type of wine and beer license for nonprofit historic cinema houses built before 1970. The beverages can be served without the need to sell food.

“We want to preserve these historic downtown theaters,” Rush says. He was contacted by the nonprofit groups that run Roanoke’s Grandin Theatre and the Lyric Theater in Blacksburg, both historic theaters in his district. They spoke of the importance of expanding their business models, and Rush was sympathetic to the plan. He has a history of expanding Virginia’s usually zipped-tight booze laws. During the 2015 General Assembly session, Rush sponsored a bill for a new art instruction studio licenses that allowed for the creation of wine-and-design classes across the state. 

As for the Byrd, its nonprofit leaders admit that it’s going to be a while before they’ll be able to fully take advantage of the new rule.

Gibson Worsham, president of the Byrd Theatre Foundation, says he recently spoke to leaders at the Grandin about the new law, but says an upgrade to the Byrd’s concession stand, scheduled for 2018 as part of a 2014 restoration plan, will be required first. The Byrd currently sells beer at special events with a standard banquet license.

“We realize wine and beer sales [are] something the public wants,” he says.

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