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Wine and Beer Could be Made Legal at Bryant Park Movies

By DNAinfo Staff on May 4, 2011 6:18am  | Updated on May 4, 2011 6:17am

Movie-watchers check out a flick at Bryant Park.
Movie-watchers check out a flick at Bryant Park.
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Flcikr/Seth W.

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — Bryant Park movie-goers may no longer have to hide their bottles of wine in their picnic baskets.

The Bryant Park Corporation is considering a plan to make beer and wine permissible at its annual Bryant Park HBO Summer Film Festival.

Thousands of New Yorkers gather under the stars Monday nights from late June through the end of August for the annual fest, which features a roster of movies, including blockbusters and black-and-white classics.

While official Parks Department rules ban alcohol from park grounds that don't have a liquor license, wine, beer and fruity cocktails are common among movie-goers huddled on the Bryant Park lawn.

The contraband drinking hasn't been much of a problem so far, since Bryant Park security staff typically turn a blind eye to alcohol during movie night checks, according to Jerome Barth, vice president of business affairs at the corporation.

"We don't want to be in the business of enforcement," Barth said.

But now, staff are discussing the possibility of taking the teetotaling out of Bryant Park policy — by embracing wine and beer.

One idea is to allow concession stands in the park to begin serving alcohol to patrons on the lawn. Sandwich vendor 'wichcraft already provides pre-packaged picnic baskets for summer movie nights, which viewers can pre-order and enjoy on the lawn.

Another plan could be to openly embrace a "Bring Your Own" policy, officials said.

"We don't know what shape it's going to take," said Barth, who noted that any plans are subject to approval from the state's liquor authority.

Barth said that, regardless of the form, park staff don't anticipate booze-fueled rowdiness from the typically mild-mannered crowd.

"One of the reasons we're thinking about this is we've never had any problems with the crowds," Barth said.

"It's not going to change the drinking. The drinking already happens," he said.

And so far, the idea seems to be getting cheers.

Members of Community Board 5's parks committee, who were briefed on the plan Monday night, said they thought the idea was  a great one since drinking is already so commonplace.

"I applaud the effort," board member Sharon Connelly said.

In the summer of 2003, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ruffled feathers when he suggested that drinking wine at concerts in Central Park was OK, even though it is officially banned.