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Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 5:58 a.m.
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The Lantern Theatre approved to sell alcohol

By Tammy Keith

This article was published December 12, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

CONWAY — Audience members at The Lantern Theatre in downtown Conway can have a beer or glass of wine before a show or during intermission, beginning with January’s performance.

Shua Miller, president of the Conway Community Arts Association Board, said the private-club license was approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

“I still have to pay for the supplemental license that the city of Conway makes you do,” Miller said.

It’s $55 a year, he said.

“We’re not done, but we’re excited to be able to do it. It’s a lot of responsibility,” he said.

“We’ve got to make sure we keep track of everything, make sure we get all the taxes paid,” he said.

Michael Langley, director of the Alcohol Beverage Control’s administrative division, said approval for the license was given Nov. 26.

Miller said conditional approval was given in October, contingent upon getting a phone line installed in the theater, which has been done.

He was also required to get a letter from the Arkansas Department of Health to send to the ABC, stating that the department will not have to inspect the theater because food will not be served.

“I’m sure the city would really like it,” Miller said, referring to selling food. “We’re going to be selling alcohol for an hour. The Health Department had to send a letter that we don’t fall under that jurisdiction, so they don’t have to check us.

“We could serve cocktails, … but right now, we’re just going to do beer and wine,” Miller said.

“You don’t have to serve food as a private club in Arkansas,” Langley said.

“Generally, we’re going to take them on a case-by-case basis. We’re not just going to let you open up a bar to serve alcohol,” Langley said.

Faulkner County is a dry county.

“This obviously is a unique property” as a community-arts venue with live performances, Langley said.

“Just like The Rep has liquor, they’ll have a membership. [The Rep] has folks who go in and have the ability to enjoy a glass of wine with the show.”

He said patrons usually are asked to just sign their names but not pay a fee.

“It’s up to [the Conway Community Arts Association] whether it costs money or not,” Langley said.

“I don’t think we’re going to charge memberships,” Miller said. “That wouldn’t make sense.”

He said the subject will be discussed at tonight’s board meeting.

Miller said he has been a restaurant server and a bartender, and was manager of the Mellow Mushroom in Bentonville and Fayetteville before coming to Conway.

In an earlier interview, Miller said the board takes the privilege to sell alcohol seriously.

“We’re not going to serve anybody who’s already intoxicated; we’re not going to serve somebody to the point of being intoxicated,” he said.

CCAA treasurer Liz Parker sent an email in August to patrons asking them to support the effort by responding with their names and addresses to be used in the application. To apply, names and addresses of 100 people had to be submitted, as well as photos of the theater and copies of minutes.

Miller said one married couple objected to the liquor permit, but the move has received overwhelming support.

The Lantern Theatre opened in June 2011. The 2,000-square-foot facility, which is rented from Carmen Thompson, is the first permanent venue for the organization in its 40-year existence.

Thompson said in August that she supported the theater getting a liquor license.

Miller said Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire, a Late Night at The Lantern production, will be performed Jan. 16-18. He is directing the play.

For more information, go to www.conwayarts.org.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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