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Teens serve alcohol at Aspen theater

Joel Stonington
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” At the Isis Theater, teenagers are more than happy to serve you a beer or a glass of wine.

The problem is, they’re too young.

Last week, police fielded complaints about underage servers, prompting officers to visit Aspen’s only full-time movie house.



Greg Buesch, assistant manager at the Isis, said everything is being sorted out.

“The police came in about a week ago, and we cleared it up with them,” he said Wednesday. “There’s always someone who is 21 supervising.”




Buesch’s understanding of the law, however, appears to be off base. That’s because city laws require that those serving booze with an alcohol content greater than 3.2 percent must be older than 21. The age of the supervisor doesn’t matter to authorities; they only care about who’s serving the alcohol.

Making matters more confusing is that city liquor laws trump Colorado state laws, which allow people 18 and older to serve booze.

“The state law allows people under 21 ” 18 and older ” to serve,” explained Kathryn Koch, the city clerk. “Because we are a home-rule city, we can make more restrictive laws.”

The Isis’s alleged violation could mean up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail for the server.

Marshall Smith, owner of Idaho-based Rocky Mountain Cinemas LLC, which operates the Isis, could not be reached for comment.

While the building that houses the Isis Theater, which is located on Hopkins Avenue, is owned by the city of Aspen, Koch said the laws are the same.

Aspen police said there was some confusion over the definition of a fermented malt beverage. The Aspen ordinance states that people 18 and older can sell fermented malt beverages, defined in legal terms as a beverage that is not more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. Anything greater than 3.2 percent is called malt liquor.

No drinking establishments in Aspen serve the watered-down beer other than grocery and convenience stores, according to Koch.

Sgt. Bill Linn said it’s unlikely police would cite the Isis Theater for a violation, provided it’s a simple misunderstanding about the letter of the law.

“With every situation, we weigh the facts,” Linn said. “Law enforcement is mostly about educating people to do the right thing voluntarily. If you can feel it’s merely a misunderstanding, what’s to be gained by using the punishment of a citation?”

jstonington@aspentimes.com