Event organizers in British Columbia have been left scrambling by a new rule banning the gathering of more than 50 vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry enacted the ban Friday by amending her public health order that prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people.
“I know that was a challenge for some people, but really this is a time when we need to be careful,” said Henry Saturday.
“Even though 50 cars may seem like a small amount, and it is a less risky environment, we know that if we get people, there will be several people in a vehicle, the chance of more contact, meaning spreading this virus is real right now.”
In the Lower Mainland, organizers of a string of drive-in films, music and comedy events are holding out hope they can still pull their plans off — with modifications.
“This is something that government did and the health board did first and foremost because they don’t want to see an outbreak at any event, and we don’t either,” said Howard Blank, CEO of Point Blank Entertainment.
“I think it gives us a chance to retool, reset, refocus, and hopefully the 50 car might work, and perhaps in the near future they’ll be able to expand it when they see we’re containing this virus.”
Blank had envisioned a summer worth of drive-in events staged from Vancouver to Hope, including car-hop style food service.
He said the team is spending the weekend figuring out if they can make the events financially viable with groups of 50.
“We’re certainly poised to try it, and hopefully we can weather the storm and as things change we’ll be able to expand subject to approvals,” said Blank.
However, the frustration was palpable in Prince George, where organizers of the charity Rooftop Rock Drive-In Concert, which was slated to go ahead Saturday night, said they felt blindsided.
“It came in at a time where it was going to be incredibly difficult to consult with government about what they really mean by that order,” said organizer Kyle Sampson.
“This event wasn’t happening before and then tailored to fit the needs of COVID, this event was designed because of the pandemic we’re facing. So safety was at the forefront of every decision and every planning step that we’ve taken.”
The new order could also have a significant impact on businesses like Langley’s Twilight Drive-In.
The facility, which can normally accommodate about 400 vehicles according to DriveInMovie.com, had reduced its capacity by half in order to meet social distancing regulations.
The new order would see that capacity reduced by a further 75 per cent.
Henry’s order would also take a bite out of one of the theatre’s key money-makers, banning concession sales and requiring guests to stay in their vehicles unless they are using the washroom.
However, the company tells Global News it does not believe the amended order applies to the drive-in theatre.
“We have reviewed yesterday’s news release from Minister Dix, and it specifically says drive-in EVENTS are restricted, not drive-in THEATRES,” said a spokesperson in an email.
“The word ‘events’ in the release would indicate that these new restrictions were created in response to, and because of, a number of proposed temporary pop-up parking lot drive-in and concert events, as they would lack the proper infrastructure and facilities – and not because of the pre-existing, on-going, permanent brick and mortar licensed drive-in theatres in B.C., that were allowed to operate (with social distancing protocols in place) during Phase 1, which never were and still not ‘events.'”
Global News has requested clarification from the Ministry of Health.