BOISE, Idaho — A movie theatre is suing the Idaho State Police for threatening to revoke the theatre's liquor license because it served alcohol while showing "Fifty Shades of Grey."
Village Cinema in Meridian, just west of Boise, has a liquor license and lets people drink alcohol in a restaurant or while watching movies in a designated 21-and-older VIP area, The Idaho Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/1PqKVO4 ). But state law prohibits places that are licensed to serve alcohol from showing movies that depict sexual acts.
Idaho police say a waitress at the theatre served beer and rum to two undercover detectives watching the risque "Fifty Shades" in the VIP seating last February.
During the movie, one of the detectives went outside the auditorium to order another beer from a different waitress, according to police. When she learned he was watching "Fifty Shades," she told him no alcohol was allowed in that showing and said he would have to drink the beverage in the hallway.
The detective took the beer into the auditorium, and the waitress followed him and told him no alcohol was allowed. Eventually, another employee came into the auditorium and asked to talk to the detectives about the policy, state police said.
Idaho State Police later told Meridian Cinemas that it served alcohol while showing "Fifty Shades" from Feb. 13 to 18 and on Feb. 26, and attempted to revoke the theatre's liquor license.
State police spokeswoman Teresa Baker declined to comment on the case, but said police are required to enforce the laws that are on the books.
"The display of sexual acts or nudity, whether live or on film, are prohibited when a premises is licensed for alcohol service," Baker wrote in an email to the Statesman. "Whether or not the statutes are valid is a question for the courts to determine."
In its lawsuit, the cinema claims the attempt by the Idaho State Police to revoke its liquor license is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment's free speech protections.
Lawyer Jeremy Chou cited a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that said it had been "clearly established that liquor regulations could not be used to impose restrictions on speech that would otherwise be prohibited under the First Amendment."
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com
The Associated Press