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Enderby’s Starlight drive-in theatre seeks clarification if mass gathering vehicle ban applies

A drive-in movie theatre in the North Okanagan is seeking clarification if a mass gathering ban on more than 50 vehicles applies to them. .
A drive-in movie theatre in the North Okanagan is seeking clarification if a mass gathering ban on more than 50 vehicles applies to them. . Starlight Drive In Theatre/Facebook

Already established drive-in movie theatres are wondering if new rules banning the gathering of more than 50 vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic apply to them.

Brian Smith, owner and operator of the 250-lot Starlight drive-in located in Enderby, B.C., would only say “we are currently seeking further clarification,” in an email.

The North Okanagan drive-in movie theatre, opened in 1996, says its moved to an online reservation system, limited attendance, simplified the pricing structure and scaled back hours and activities, all to comply with provincial health and safety guidelines.

“Our current operations continue at 50% or less capacity,” the website says.

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Each vehicle is provided a 20-foot parking space and moviegoers are asked to stay in their spot and not mingle or socialize with patrons in other vehicles.

READ MORE: Organizers left scrambling as B.C. bans drive-in events with 50-plus vehicles

“Some of the things that people enjoy the most — open hatches, trucks parked backwards, along with sitting outside — will all still be allowed, but please stay within the confines of your 20 foot parking stall,” the drive-in says.

On May 22, a provincial health order limiting mass gatherings to 50 people was amended to include bans on gatherings of more than 50 vehicles.

Those operating outdoor drive-in events must ensure people stay in their vehicles except to use washroom facilities, the order stipulates.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Rooftop concert postponed due to new B.C. ban of vehicle gatherings

“The order has been amended to also include no more than 50 vehicles for outdoor drive-in events, with a restriction on the sale of refreshments,” said a joint statement issued by Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer.

“Anyone attending these events must stay in their cars unless they have to go to washrooms, which must be serviced with running water for proper hand hygiene.”

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Banning the sale of food and drink at drive-in events would be a major blow to brick-and-mortar drive-in movie theatres, which rely on concession sales to turn a profit.

As of Monday afternoon, the Starlight drive-in theatre was still promoting concession sales on its website, although it says guests are asked to send one person to the concession area to minimize risk of transmission.

READ MORE: Alberta’s top doctor defends summer mass gathering ban as COVID-19 death toll rises

Langley’s Twilight Drive-In says it does not believe the amended order applies to drive-in theatres.

“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.

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However, Henry confirmed during her media briefing on Monday that the 50-vehicle cap does apply to all drive-in movie theatres in B.C.

“There is no real science behind (the number 50), but it is a rational approach that we want to be consistent across all of our venues when we are talking about gatherings and events,” she said.

— With files from Simon Little