Port Theater gets commission's OK for expanded alcohol sales

The independent Port Theater in Corona del Mar is stepping up its competition with Regal's Island Cinema movie theater at Fashion Island.

In a plea to the Newport Beach Planning Commission on Monday night, operators of the remodeled luxury theater won approval to seek a license to serve alcohol anywhere in the theater during movie screenings until 1 a.m., as Island Cinema does.

The Port Theater has been serving alcohol but is forced to limit sales to the second-floor mezzanine, and sales end at 11 p.m.

Under the new proposed rules, if a movie ends before 1 a.m., alcohol service must stop along with it.

"If they have early movies, it doesn't mean they have late alcohol service," Assistant City Attorney Leonie Mulvihill said.

The vote was 4 to 2, with Vice Chairman Kory Kramer absent and commissioners Bradley Hillgren and Peter Koetting dissenting.

Several residents cautioned commissioners that the expanded hours could cause disturbances even if a full menu is also available.

"People don't realize the noise they make," said David Stone, who said he owns a duplex nearby, about the moviegoers.

Hillgren was sympathetic to the comments, saying that Fashion Island is a much different location than the heart of Corona del Mar.

Plus, he found the end of a movie to be "an odd time to go buy a beer" and asked, "Who's having a cocktail at 1 o'clock?"

Hillgren's motion to end alcohol service at midnight on weekends and leave the cutoff at 11 p.m. weekdays did not pass.

"I think we're micromanaging," commission secretary Jay Myers said.

Under the license, police have authority to scale back the hours of service if problems arise.

Commission discussion of alcohol licenses at Sancho's Tacos and the Lido Theater was continued at the applicants' requests to Aug. 21 and Sept. 4, respectively.