A historic theater is back in business, with a new twist. The Sterling Theater has re-opened as a“brew-and-view,” meaning alcohol and food can be served during the movie. Sterling Mayor Skip Lee says that makes the 1930s-era cinema unique not only to Whiteside County, but to the entire region. “The research I’ve done indicates there’s no brew-and-view closer than Arlington Heights to the east, Des Moines to the west, probably Madison, Wis. to the north, and nothing to the south, and I’ve gone as far as Springfield,” Lee said.
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Transforming the theater came at a price. Previous owners left the building with a leaky roof, asbestos, and a crumbling façade. Repairs and renovations, including the cost of adding digital and 3-D projection capabilities, required a total investment of around $750,000 from the city. Lee says it’s worth the cost, as he hopes the theater will attract out-of-town visitors and boost the local economy.