Last Thursday Randy Danielson and Donna Pontius co-chairmen for the REES Theatre and Executive Director Dennis McKeen appeared before the Plymouth Redevelopment Commission with a request for assistance to acquire a liquor license. 

City Attorney Sean Surrisi told members the city has been working with the REES to facilitate an alcohol permit.  The City Council approved the creation of a Riverfront District recently that has a special allocation of permits above what is allowed for the city.  After an additional investigation, it was found that the permit has some physical limitations including barriers within the building that would have some adverse impacts. Surrisi said another option was discovered with a Civic Center permit for projects associated with a governmental entity.  This type of permit has no physical limitations on the bar area from the rest of the building.

To qualify for a Civic Center, permit the organization must be a facility it is owned or leased by a government entity.  Surrisi listed out a state code that allows for property to be donated to the Redevelopment Commission and leased back to the REES Theatre. The city attorney said, “The REES would donate a leasehold interest in the REES building to the Redevelopment Commission for the purposes to facilitate their application for this alcohol permit which you would then immediately release the building back to the REES and they would be responsible for all of the operations and everything to do with the facility such as insurance and hold the city harmless from any liability claims.” 

Randy Danielson said, “You can imagine the hurdles we have surpassed over the last five and one-half years as a collective community to get to this point. We have an opening date now of October 1st.  What we would like to do is be able to serve our patrons in a fashion that speaks highly of the REES Theatre itself.”  He said they will do responsible dispensing of alcohol and the licensing being applied for will be under the REES Theatre Inc.

While working on the alcohol permit process for 2½ years with the state’s local representative, earlier this month they met with Brian Stewart from the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission to review the design and physical structure.  Without the Civic Center alcohol permit a 6-foot-tall wall would have to be built between the service area and the auditorium.  This would also require the removal of a row of seating, which equals 12 seats.

Redevelopment Commission President Mike Miley asked who owns the building and the City Attorney said the REES owns it and is responsible for payment obligations.

Member Nancy Felde, commission secretary asked what the REES was donating, and the city attorney said a leasehold interest in the building making the Redevelopment Commission the primary lessor of the building.  The commission will then lease back that interest to the Rees Theatre Inc. 

Commission member Billy Ellinger asked who would oversee the alcohol policies and be sure there is no underage drinking happening at the events in the REES.  Sean Surrisi said anyone serving also will have to obtain a server’s permit, go through the education and check IDs.  Danielson said, “Any of you who remember Web Weatherhead, we’ll have a few of those walking around the facility too.”

Felde said she had a problem with the idea stating, “The kind of work the Redevelopment Commission helps, oversees, and encourages in the town, that this is out of our whole realm.”  She suggested the City of Plymouth would be a better idea. 

When it came down to a vote, the Redevelopment Commission voted 4 to 1 with Nancy Felde being the lone nay vote on the Civic Center Alcohol permit through a lease option.