01/22/2012 05:36 EST | Updated 03/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Vancouver councillor fights to save Rio Theatre

A Vancouver city councillor is going to bat for an iconic local theatre in danger of closing down its screens because of its new liquor license.

After 74 years in business, East Vancouver's Rio Theatre recently got a liquor license to diversify its business for live events, but the province's liquor laws prevent venues from showing movies and serving alcohol.

Coun. Heather Deal says she plans to introduce a motion to council calling on the province to update its liquor laws.

Deal says she's spoken with the B.C. government before about liquor regulation but now the issue is urgent because it's hurting an important arts venue in the city.

"I think this one is not only very, very sort of misguided but quite damaging to some of the small culture-oriented businesses that we have in the city like the Rio," she said.

"So I've been in touch with [the province]. They said that they don't agree with me but they're willing to have a conversation. It's time to dial up the pressure a little bit."

Deal says other jurisdictions manage to show movies at venues with liquor licenses by limiting when and where alcohol can be served.

'Out of business'

Rio owner Corrine Lea says she thought the theatre could still show movies as long as liquor wasn't served during films, but she was wrong.

"We were told ... when we applied for the license that they wanted this to be an event-driven license and they wanted us to be operating as a concert venue, not as a movie theatre."

Lea says the license specifically states the Rio can't show any cinematic screening at any time, which is problematic.

"In this day and age, a lot of performers might use visuals or they might have a short film as a part of their art ... so this really severely restricts the kind of creative programming that we can do," she said.

"I can't make a living without the liquor license so if I don't sign it, they say you don't get the liquor license and then I am out of business."

The last movie screening at the Rio is scheduled for Sunday night.