Aliso Viejo Movie Theater Allowed to Sell Beer and Wine


ALISO VIEJO – The Edwards Theater in Aliso Viejo Town Center, the city’s only movie theater, will be allowed to sell alcohol after the theater chain settled its lawsuit against the city.

In October 2015, the City Council voted 3-2 to deny a permit that would allow the Edwards Aliso Viejo 20 & IMAX to sell beer and wine. However, Edwards filed a lawsuit against the city in January, arguing the method by which the issue was first placed on the City Council agenda was illegal.

According to a city staff report released today , Edwards and the city reached a settlement and stipulated court judgment that will allow the theater chain to serve alcohol with several stipulations requested by the city:

• Edwards will designate a specific concession stand or stands for alcoholic beverage sales with clear signage indicating that use;

• Edwards will post signs indicating that alcoholic beverages may not be consumed in theaters showing G-rated movies; and

• alcoholic beverage sales will be permitted between the hours of 11 a.m. and midnight.

By settling the lawsuit, the city saved an estimated $100,000 in legal fees and potentially an additional $500,000 to cover Edwards’ legal fees if the city were to lose.

Mayor Mike Munzing said he could not comment on the settlement until after the council and city staff report on the closed session negotiations with Edwards at the next City Council meeting on Wednesday.

Regal Entertainment Group, which operates the Edwards brand, applied for the permit in August 2014, and former planning director Albert Armijo approved it. City Councilman Phil Tsunoda requested the decision be placed on the council agenda for review in November 2014, but he did not file the paperwork required to add an item to the agenda.

In October 2015, representatives for Regal notified the City Council that a recently decided Newport Beach case had established that a city could not hear an appeal via a process not outlined in its municipal code, according to the lawsuit. Regardless, the council “refused to halt the purported appeal proceedings,” the lawsuit said.

In that case, Woody’s Wharf received permits for dancing and later hours for its patios from the Newport Beach Planning Commission in September 2013.

But after then-Councilman Mike Henn voiced his displeasure with the commission’s decision, the permits went to the City Council for review. Henn’s appeal was approved by the council in October and the business was prohibited from keeping its patio open later and allowing dancing.

The city’s decision was upheld by an Orange County Superior Court judge in May 2014. But on Jan. 29, the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed that decision, arguing the city had violated its municipal code by allowing Henn to appeal the commission decision without submitting an appeal form with the City Clerk and paying a filing fee.

The appellate court also wrote that Henn should have abstained from the council’s discussion on the issue since he had voiced strong opposition to the restaurant’s application. With that ruling, the Planning Commission’s decision stood.