Carnival Cinemas owner Bill Ramji was among the Red Deer business owners who hoped Alberta would have moved into the next stage of reopenings by now.
Instead, Ramji’s movie theatre must stay closed, under provincial regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, despite constant questions Ramji is hearing from the public about when it is reopening.
“Every week I have five to 10 people asking me, ‘Are you open yet?’ Oh, I’m sorry you are not…’”
Ramji said his staff members are also “getting bored sitting at home” and want to come back to work.
“I have full faith in our elected officials, but when I put my small businessman hat on, I am disappointed we are not open,” he added.
Theatres — including Carnival Cinemas, the Galaxy Theatre, and Red Deer’s Memorial Centre Theatre — were not given the green light to reopen on Monday because of concerns about Alberta’s hospitalization rate.
Under Step 3, the current restrictions would’ve also loosened for casinos, bingo halls, private indoor social gatherings, zoos, museums and places of worship.
Some local sports teams are also waiting to spring into action once Step 3 of the province’s reopening plan is announced.
Ramji said the situation is frustrating because not a single case of COVID has been traced to movie theatres.
He said owners had encouraged patrons to socially distance when they were allowed to operate at 30 per cent capacity. “There was lot of room to spread out.”
Ramji continues facing ongoing operating costs — including a property tax bill — despite his theatres’ closures.
But curbside popcorn sales on Thursdays through Sundays and the reopening of the virtual reality games arcade at Carnival Cinema on Friday should help, he said. The virtual games arcade is allowed to reopen because the players each sit at individual cubicles.
Ramji hopes cases will soon decline so that further reopenings can happen next month.
On Monday, provincial officials indicated there is no specific date to re-assess easing measures in Step 3. Further easing measures will only happen when hospitalizations, which have continually risen over the past seven days, start to decline again.