Patrons may soon be able to enjoy a glass of wine or beer in their seats during performances at Sagebrush Theatre.
Western Canada Theatre, which has managed the theatre at Ninth Avenue and Munro Street in the Sagebrush neighbourhood since the 1970s, is applying for a liquor primary licence to serve alcohol in the venue
If successful, alcohol would be sold and permitted not only in the seating area, but also on stage, backstage and upstairs in the rehearsal room, providing greater flexibility to host back-stage meet-and-greet events or fundraising dinners. A small area outside the lobby would also be utilized as a patio during warmer months.
The liquor licence application will go before city council on Tuesday as WCT seeks its support before submitting the bid to the provincial government.
Western Canada Theatre managing director Evan Klassen said patrons, as part of audience feedback, have often brought up the absence of alcohol in the venue.
Complications around securing a liquor licence for Sagebrush Theatre arose in the past, however, due to the theatre being located on a school property, Klassen said. Unlike Pavilion Theatre at 10th Avenue and Lorne Street downtown — which has a liquor licence — Sagebrush Theatre is unique in that it is owned by School District 73, attached to South Kamloops secondary and has a tripartite agreement with WCT and the City of Kamloops.
As a result, it is frequented by both the larger community, but also by youngsters, depending on the day and event.
So, after decades of Sagebrush Theatre operating without a liquor licence, why the application now? Klassen said liquor licensing rules have relaxed in recent years. Sagebrush Theatre attendees may have noticed liquor at some events in recent memory. Klassen said WCT has obtained special event licences, though it was determined that style of licence is better suited for events like Brewloops.
“It’s high time,” Klassen said, noting not every event, such as student shows, would see alcohol served. “It’s the kind of thing that people do say, ‘Oh, I can’t believe that you don’t have that already.”
If approved, Klassen said alcohol could be served at Sagebrush Theatre as early as April. WCT expects alcohol will generate revenue for the venue, though it is unclear how much and the company is not relying on possible revenues for budgeting purposes, Klassen said.
He said that drinks would be “affordable.”
WCT has also recently made a series of accessibility improvements to Sagebrush Theatre, including new handrails, motorized door openers and a row designated for people with limited mobility.
It comes as the community prepares to go to referendum on the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts. Echoing previous statements from the city, Klassen said Sagebrush Theatre will remain an “important asset” should that centre be built if voters approve a city borrowing request on April 4.