Movies, beer and coffee in Sacramento

On cinema's central-city death, banning single bottles of brew, and local java vs. Starbucks

Is there a “funeral at the movies”?

No. That’s just a rock song by a weird ’90s band. But this month does mark the 40th anniversary of the Alhambra Theatre’s closing. And, recently, the Crest Theatre stopped showing films Monday through Thursday. And, yes, the Tower Theatre is still owned by Reading Cinemas, who—despite the eternal charm of Tower employees—remains notoriously chintzy with its repairs and upkeep. And then there’s the grid’s other movie complex, the Downtown Plaza, which is too busy showing suboptimal-IQ flicks, like the latest G.I. Joe sequel, on 50 screens. At least the Esquire IMAX Theatre is lovely.

I grew up in the burbs, and visiting downtown to see independent, art-house and, as my parents would say, “weird” movies was formative. So, it was tragic when the art-house theater near Arden Fair mall was plowed down to make way for … a field of weeds and a tattered asphalt lot.

On Capital Public Radio’s Insight show this past Tuesday with Beth Ruyak, local lawyer Maurice Read reminisced about the old Alhambra, which once stood at the border of the grid at Alhambra and K streets (now a Safeway). “We used to think it would be impossible for them to tear it down,” he told the host. So much for that.

It’s depressing that the economics of cinema exhibition won’t allow for the Crest to screen flicks during weekdays. But I get its struggle; I could log on my Comcast Xfinity On Demand right now and watch the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road or the Stanley Kubrick documentary Room 237, even though both flicks are in theaters.

That’s too bad. A city’s movie scene matters. And, not unlike a community theater or “sports and entertainment complex,” it is worth subsidizing. The city once subsidized IMAX’s lease to the tune of $75,000 a year—this kind of money could go a long way to rebuild the central city’s cinema community.

I hope indie movies never leave the grid. But I’m worried.


You can keep the popcorn and soda: Nothing beats a good flick and a beer.

Beer is back in the news this week: Blair Anthony Robertson, food writer for The Sacramento Bee, launched a new brew column, The Beer Run. In it, he reminded that craft-beer sales were up 15 percent in 2010 and 2011.

Everywhere but Midtown and downtown Sacramento, that is.

With the daily’s new beer fix and all these new local breweries, it’s a perfect time to remind readers that it’s still illegal to purchase a single bottle of the world’s finest beers on the central-city grid. You’ll have an easier time buying weed, whiskey or even votes at the Capitol than you will a bottle of Pliny the Elder, arguably the most popular craft brew in America.

This is because in the 1990s, there apparently were a lot of drunks on the grid. City council passed a “single serve ordinance,” which banned single-bottle sales. But, as Councilman Steve Cohn told SN&R a couple years ago, the law has had “unintended consequences.”

I’ve spoken with five council members, including the mayor, and all agreed that amending the rule needed exploring. They understood the craft-beer craze and acknowledged the ordinance’s possible obsolescence.

Maybe this year, on the heels of the city’s special Economic Development Strategy workshop this past Tuesday, city leaders can tweak things to allow for retail sales of craft beers at Safeway, the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op and other grid shops. I’d drink to that.


Congratulations to Insight Coffee Roasters, who plan to open a new coffeehouse at the forthcoming 16 Powerhouse building on P and 16th streets—which just so happens to be across the street from a Starbucks.

I love, love the idea of local coffee taking on America’s biggest brew dog. And what better company than Insight? The owners, who’ve seemingly worked at every coffeehouse in the city, finally opened their own spot last year at Eighth and S streets. So why not take on Goliath?