Egyptian Theatre Boise

The historic Egyptian Theatre in downtown Boise.

Historic Idaho theaters that can’t change their layout to suit state regulations could serve beer and wine, under legislation that passed the House on a 60-7 vote today; the bill would apply to the Egyptian Theatre in Boise along with potentially a dozen others across the state.

Post Register reporter Nate Brown writes that the bill, HB 157, would only apply to theaters that were both built before 1950 and are on the National Register of Historic Places. Although 13 Idaho theaters were built before 1950, only a handful are on the historic register.

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said the current law is confusing, letting these theaters serve alcohol at some types of shows but not others. “Many of them walk this complex line because they’re multi-purpose theaters,” he said.

Rep. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom, was the only person to debate against the bill, Brown writes. "I'm a little fearful of appearing to be a prude about this whole thing, but I don't think that offering more alcohol to the state is going to improve our quality of life, and I think for a theater to be successful you don't need to be drinking in the theater," he said.

The other “no” votes came from Reps. Anderson, Andrus, Dayley, Furniss, Raymond and Ricks. HB 157 now heads to the Senate side.

After the vote, Erpelding said in a statement, “Many of these historical theaters are struggling to stay afloat. They have to pay for things like repairs, insurance, and movie rentals. I’ve heard from theaters all over the state and they are so excited to see that we are working to fix this problem."

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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