COVID-19: London, Ont. venues scrambling ahead of reintroduced capacity limits

While smaller venues like the Grand Theatre and Landmark Cinemas' Wellington 8 are exempt thanks to their size, others like Budweiser Gardens will enter the weekend with familiar capacity limits. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

A number of venues in London, Ont., are being forced to make a big amount of change in a short amount of time after the province announced it would reintroduce capacity limits amid a surge in new cases of COVID-19.

The government said Wednesday capacity limits of 50 per cent will be applied to indoor areas of venues with a normal capacity of 1,000 or more. The new rules will take effect on Sunday at 12:01 a.m.

While venues like the Grand Theatre and Landmark Cinemas’ Wellington 8 remain unaffected thanks to their smaller size, Budweiser Gardens, London Music Hall and Cineplex’s two London cinemas will all enter the weekend with familiar capacity limits.

Read more: Ontario reintroducing capacity limits for large indoor venues amid Omicron concerns

There’s a lot of things up in the air for Budweiser Gardens, but general manager Brian Ohl says he hopes to have solid plans soon.

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In the meantime, he says Budweiser Gardens is working with musicians, performers, the London Knights and other acts planned for the arena to determine next steps, but adds that upcoming events will likely be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“Some shows are going to find a way to make it work and others may postpone for a couple of months or so, but nothing’s definitive yet,” Ohl said.

Ohl describes it as “quite a juggling act” and says there are still plenty of questions surrounding the reintroduced restrictions, including how long they will last.

“This uncertainty is not easy for anybody whether they’re here at the venue or its the artist or the patrons. We appreciate everybody’s patience in this,” Ohl added.

In a brief statement shared to Twitter on Thursday morning, the London Knights said the team would have an update in the coming days.

Read more: Vaccines not enough to curb Omicron spread, stronger public measures needed: Ontario modelling

While the London Music Hall falls under the reintroduced restrictions, vice-president and operations manager Demetri Manuel says they had the foresight to avoid being forced to make last-minute adjustments.

“With the shows coming up this weekend in December, we were able to limit capacity before they got above the 50 per cent mark,” Manuel said.

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“We didn’t want to be stuck in a situation where we had to refund a lot of people, but again, if this goes into February, March, later January, we will be greatly affected and ticket purchases will be affected.”

The Grand Theatre’s smaller size keeps it exempt from the restrictions, but the theatre said in an email to patrons on Thursday that “capacities are consistently under 50 per cent for all remaining performances of Home for the Holidays.”

The Grand says it will also allow flexible seating options, meaning audience members can request different seats if it helps with physical distancing.

Read more: Omicron FAQ: Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 variant

Elsewhere, some Londoners hoping to catch Spider-Man: No Way Home on its opening weekend may be out of luck as Cineplex deals with the reintroduced capacity limits.

The company has two theatres in London, SilverCity attached to CF Masonville Place and Odeon Westmount at Westmount Shopping Centre.

In an email to Global News on Thursday morning, Cineplex said “we’re still reviewing what was announced and what it will mean for movie-lovers, particularly those with tickets to see the highly anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home, which was the biggest advance ticketing launch of all time.”

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Cineplex added that those with advance tickets should keep an eye on their email inboxes with an update on next steps set to arrive in the coming days.

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