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Coffee is not a crime 

Who made Downtown Centre Cinemas the hot-beverage police?

I thought I was free. I thought I could purchase a coffee and drink it in peace. But oh no — not according to the management of the Downtown Centre Cinema. We are not allowed to bring coffee into the theater — only a cold beverage that has passed the inspection of the cinema tyrant. It all started last year when my boyfriend and I purchased a warm cup of coffee and had plans to head to the movies after a long day at work. Our simple, proud-to-live-in-the-U.S.A. idea was stomped upon by a fair-haired girl at the front of the theater.

“Is that a hot coffee?� she asked. “If not, you must dump it out or pour it onto ice upstairs at Starbucks.�

Okay, what? Not, “I will let it slide this time since you bought your tickets and the movie starts in five minutes�? Not, “Can I grab you a cup of ice since you were unaware of our laws here in the land of The Movie Experience�? No, we had to hurry up and either dump our drinks, slam them down like a shot of tequila, or run back up to Starbucks, wait in line, and transfer our drinks to a cup of coldness. It pains me to think of the hundreds of $3 drinks dumped by this czar.

Since then, I have been made aware, with no thanks to the management of Downtown Centre, that some jackass had spilled hot coffee on themselves that had been purchased outside of the theater somewhere, in some other area, and had produced a lawsuit and won. So, this sue-happy moron messed up our chance of having a coffee and a movie only at the Downtown Centre. Every other theater in this area allows that fabulous cup of java.

Doesn’t the coffee nazi realize that I could just as easily choke on a piece of ice, and in the darkness of the theater no one would be able to properly perform the Heimlich maneuver? Or what if I accidentally spilled my drink and ice lay on the ground, turning into a veritable banana peel just waiting for the next victim?

How ironic that Starbucks sits upon the Downtown Centre like a heavenly planet of caffeine, luring your nose and taste buds, forcing you to make that difficult choice: coffee or movie. I thought we weren’t supposed to discriminate against people who like things hot.

And who, for that matter, is the decision maker on the exact temperature of allowed coffee drinks into the Downtown Centre? My hot might be your tepid. I wasn’t shown the hot gauge. Maybe I should have lied and told her it was cold — would she have then stuck her finger in my coffee to test it?

After a year of boycotting the theater, we lost our minds and purchased a coffee and decided to see the movie “Closer,� which was only playing at Downtown Centre. We decided to take our sweaters off and drape them over our coffees like nasty, sneaky little coffee drinkers. The manager was onto us before we even hit the second set of stairs. We witnessed her communicate with her coworker in the ticket window, like a catty little schoolgirl, that she had a situation on hand. She halted her ticket line, pushed children and the elderly aside, and spat, “I have to check and see if you have a hot drink under your sweaters.� I was bummed and pissed off at the same time. I felt like the kid that just wasn’t tall enough to go on the big rollercoaster, as all of the cold-beverage drinkers got in line ahead of me.

We got our money back. I wouldn’t dump my eggnog latte for the world … they only come out during the holiday season and they aren’t cheap.

Well, little Miss Power Trip, you have lost two customers for life. Perhaps you should rethink your approach on this subject. Here’s an idea: have a grown adult sign an “I won’t sue� waiver. Or post a sign up at Starbucks.

I will travel to Paso, Santa Maria, or Santa Barbara for a good flick, but I will not go to the Downtown Centre.

Nancy Billings says, “Support the legal vice!�

Editor’s Note: Some theaters don’t allow hot beverages for insurance reasons.

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