With restaurants, bars and gyms set to reopen in a week with strict restrictions, business owners who haven’t gotten the green light say they feel puzzled by the government’s relaunch timeline.
Movie theatres and indoor entertainment centres are among the businesses waiting until the second, third and fourth stages of the new relaunch strategy, announced Friday by Premier Jason Kenney. Owners of such businesses say they are disappointed and confused about being left out of the Feb. 8 reopening, adding they have the ability to maintain just as safe an environment as restaurants and bars.
“I’m not understanding why the risk management on theatres is categorized as much greater than Costco’s, Walmart’s and even bars,” said Nathalie Hunter, owner of Canyon Meadows Cinemas in southeast Calgary.
“You’re spaced out, watching a show beside only those within your cohort. You’re really not socializing or visiting because you’re watching the screen, whereas at a restaurant you’re talking back and forth.”
Indoor seated events such as movie theatres are set to reopen around the time COVID-19 hospitalizations fall below 300 — the third stage of the relaunch strategy.
With clear markings for where to stand, 40,000 square feet, low capacity admitted to each theatre and staggered showtimes, Hunter feels her cinema is a safe space for patrons escaping the monotony of watching Netflix at home.
Hunter, along with similar business owners, continues to lobby the government to move up their reopening. She’s been selling popcorn and movie snacks through curbside pickup to have some form of income while theatres have been closed.
“We’ve been around for 20 years. I feel like we’re an iconic business here with a lot of very loyal customers who have been buying popcorn to give us a fighting chance,” said Hunter.
Financial supports from the federal and provincial governments have been a “drop in the bucket,” leaving many businesses in trouble, she said.
For Brandon Johnson, owner of Speeders Indoor ProKarts, income was lost entirely when restrictions tightened in mid-December.
“Go-karting is already a socially distanced activity and with the measures we had in place, sanitizing karts, helmets and everything, in a 50,000-square-foot building with plenty of space to spread out, we feel Speeders is a safe activity,” said Johnson.
He says it’s hard to comprehend another several weeks of closures while eateries are given the go-ahead.
“We should be able to operate with the same kinds of protocols as restaurants, limiting it to households,” said Johnson.