It’s back to the drawing board for the owners of Saracen Cinema 8 after they were denied a second time for a permit to sell beer and wine. The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board refused the appeal at their Feb. 27 meeting in Little Rock.


“After a discussion, the board did vote 5 to nothing to deny the permit, but indicated to Mr. Mays that he’s welcome to apply again in the future and come back,” said Alcoholic Beverage Control Board spokesman Scott Hardin. “But, they just would require additional details before approving it.”


Hardin said the board had multiple concerns as the reason they unanimously voted against the appeal. Back in the summer, Okorie Ezieme, Saracen Cinema 8 chief financial officer, and Steven Mays, Jr., Saracen Cinema 8 chief operating officer, bought the movie theater from The Pines Mall owner Judy Vu. Mays spoke on behalf of the pair at the board meeting, according to Hardin.


“The ABC board had some concerns with the security surrounding serving alcohol,” he said. “There was a concern regarding the system of which this [beer and wine] would be kept from minors. There was a concern that the bar and concession stand were one in the same.”


In a September 2019 interview with The Commercial, Mays and Ezieme said they had plans to add a “minibar” giving moviegoers a theater experience they didn’t have to travel to Little Rock to witness. More than a month later on Nov. 15, Doralee Chandler, the director of ABC administration and enforcement, rejected the duo’s initial application for a restaurant beer and wine permit.


“Previously, they have approved alcohol in movie theaters,” Hardin said. “However, in those cases it was separate. There’s a concession stand for popcorn and soft drinks and another area for alcohol. So, that was a concern.”


Hardin says the board encouraged Mays to reapply for a beer and wine permit once the changes they suggested are implemented. The Commercial reached out to Mays for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.


“They also said they would like to see an updated floor plan [and] they’d like to hear more about the security effort,” he said. “Again, it was denial with the note that we’re open to discussing this in the future.”