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Horizon Cinemas Fallston approved for Harford's first movie theater liquor license

Harford County's first movie theater liquor license has been approved after the Harford County Liquor Control Board voted unanimously Wednesday to issue a license to sell alcohol at a Fallston movie theater slated to open next week.

Robert G. Wienholt Sr., of Joppa, his son, Joel, and their associate, Edward Copeland, of Street, will be the license holders. They are the owners and operators of Horizon Cinemas Fallston, which is in Fallston Village Center at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 152.

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"This is the first application for the Class MT movie theater license," liquor board Administrator Pilar Gracia said as the Wienholts, Copeland and their attorney, Joseph Snee, of Bel Air, appeared before the board Wednesday afternoon.

The operators plan to open the seven theater, 515-seat cineplex by March 10 "at the latest," Joel Wienholt said.

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They have approvals from the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Harford County Health Department, but they cannot open until their use and occupancy permit and liquor license are in hand.

Snee said he expects to have the U&O permit next Tuesday or Wednesday.

March 8 is the earliest the liquor license would be available after being processed, and Snee said the theater could open that day if he could pick up the license first thing in the morning.

The new Fallston Tractor Supply Company store at Routes 1 and 152 has opened and will hold its grand opening celebration on Saturday, Nov. 5, with specially priced merchandise available now through Sunday.

"This is something I've been waiting to get back into Harford County since 1997," said Robert Wienholt, who noted he has built about 14 movie theaters, including facilities in Bel Air and Aberdeen that he said have since closed, the result of competition from large theater chains.

Horizon Cinemas would be the third multiplex in Harford County, after Regal Bel Air Cinema Stadium 14 in Abingdon and Digiplex Flagship Cinemas 7 in Churchville.

Horizon is an anchor tenant in Fallston Village Center, formerly known as Fallston Mall. Local developer Michael Euler Sr. and his partners have been working since the summer of 2015 to redevelop a mall that had almost no tenants a few years ago.

New tenants, such as an urgent care clinic and the Uncle's Hawaiian Grindz restaurant, have moved in since Euler and his partners took over.

They lobbied in the Maryland General Assembly last year for legislation that would create a liquor license tailored to movie theaters — that legislation was approved. Sales of alcoholic beverages are becoming more popular at other cinemas around the country.

Robert Wienholt, who said he has been in the movie business since 1969, said he did not ever expect to have alcohol sales at his cinemas.

"This is new to us, and we're kind of nervous about it, but this is what's going on in our industry," he said.

Horizon Cinemas plan to sell beer and wine in single-serving containers at a bar area separate from the concessions counter where candy, popcorn and non-alcoholic beverages are sold.

They must also sell food beyond popcorn and candy, so appetizers such as pizza, chicken tenders, onion rings, hot dogs and nachos will be available, Joel Wienholt said.

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Patrons can drink either at the bar, in the theater or a cafe section in the building.

"Their carding policy is to card everyone," Snee said of the procedure for checking identification to ensure only people 21 and older purchase alcohol.

Their license allows them to sell beer, wine and liquor, but the operators only plan to sell beer and wine, so they would not need to seek approval from the liquor board if they wanted to start selling hard alcohol, too, according to Gracia.

"They can always serve less then they're entitled to, but not more," she said.

Board Commissioner Tom Fidler asked how the operators plan to serve the drinks. He encouraged them to consider opening the containers and pouring the drink in a glass so the server has a brief window to assess how seriously the customer is intoxicated.

"That extra 20 to 30 seconds can be the difference," Fidler said.

The younger Wienholt said they plan to serve drinks with the containers open.

The drinks will be sold at a rate of one per customer, according to Copeland.

Fidler asked how the operators plan to stop a customer coming back "five minutes later" after the first serving and buying another drink - he raised the scenario of a person of legal drinking age buying drinks one at a time for a group of underage friends.

He noted alcohol service at cinemas is "new ground" for the liquor board as well as the movie theater industry.

"I just ask for some collaboration here," Fidler said.

Robert Wienholt said staff are "going to be watching very carefully who is buying the alcohol and who the people are with them."

He stressed he wants Horizon Cinemas to have a family atmosphere and be a place where people can bring children.

"We're going to be very, very careful about what we do in this location," he said. "You've got my word on that."



Harford County’s “Choose Civility” campaign kicked off with a breakfast event at the Water’s Edge Events Center in Belcamp on Wednesday.

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