Twilight Drive-In has been capped to 50 cars due to a provincial health ban order amended on Friday, May 22. Owner Jay Daulat is fighting for an health ministry exemption to the ruling, to allow more cars to buy in, attend, and keep his business afloat. (Aldergrove Star files)

B.C. drive-in theatre appeals COVID-19 concession rules, 50-car limit

With 50 cars and the removal of concession sales, drive-in owner says theatre might have to close

Monday night in Aldergrove saw Twilight Drive-In welcome more than 100 cars in its lot to see Indiana Jones projected high upon its 40-foot screen.

That afternoon, owner Jay Daulat found out an amended provincial health ban – restricting events to no more than 50 vehicles – also applied to his business.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was probed more than once during Monday’s COVID-19 briefing, asked whether drive-in theatres were supposed to limit moviegoers.

After replying yes, Henry said “it becomes a very challenging situation when you have large numbers of vehicles, to be able to monitor and ensure you don’t have those multiple numbers of connections,” possibly transmitting the virus.

When the ruling came into effect on Friday, Daulat was under the impression that the drive-in – being “an established business, not a pop-up event” – was exempt.

The owner said he figured the ban swung down to address a number of pop-up drive-in movie theatres and concerts planned for the summer.

As such, Twilight continued selling movie tickets online and kept concession stands up and running.

Bylaw approval for 200 cars early spring

Daulat is still reluctant to accept that his business of 15 years, licensed by the Township of Langley, is the one affected.

Prior to Phase 1 of B.C.’s Restart Plan, Twilight voluntarily halved its car occupancy to 200, ensuring a 20-foot radius between each parked vehicle, Daulat said.

Normally up to 400 cars would swing by for a movie showing.

“We are better than guidelines,” Daulat told the Aldergrove Star about the distancing.

Plus, he said, people are socially isolating inside of vehicles.

RELATED: Drive-In boasts films from ‘the privacy of your own vehicle’ amid COVID-19

Reliant upon concession sales to stay float

In a joint statement released from Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix May 22, refreshment sales are also restricted for drive-in events.

“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,” the statement read.

Daulat said that without the sale of refreshments, the Twilight Drive-In, simply put, “would not run.”

“We would have to close,” he said, mentioning overhead costs.

“Concession stand sales are a major part for us. It’s just not feasible [to remove them],” the owner elaborated. Especially if only 50 cars are able to purchase movie tickets each night, he said.

The drive-in was initially approved to operate by Langley Township, and Daulat said Dr. Henry’s office also gave the business the go-ahead after seeing its social distancing protocol early March.

The owner said he had faxed her office the plans.

“But in Phase 2, we’re all of a sudden no good, but other businesses are?” Daulat questioned.

READ MORE: Twilight Drive-In turns ‘hundreds of cars away’ amid pandemic

Petitioning to stay

Earlier this week, he sent the health ministry files that requested an immediate exemption be granted for Twilight – so that he can continue operating.

“What we are doing is putting a reconsideration of the exemption in her hands [Tuesday] morning and getting the answer by end of the day,” he said, optimistically.

Meantime, the Twilight Drive-In has begun a public campaign asking for signatures and written letters and emails of support from its community of customers.

“Drive-ins across Canada are being allowed to open under their province’s Phase 1 of reopening – with identical protocols we have in place – and now we are being restricted more than them, in Phase 2,” Daulat posted on Twilight Drive-In’s Facebook page.

As of Tuesday morning, the public plea had close to 900 shares.

“We are asking you to tell them that you do not agree with these new restrictions being placed on permanent drive-in theatres,” it reads.

A petition created by the business on Monday, May 25, garnered more than 3,000 signatures overnight.

In a recent COVID-19 provincial health briefing, Henry has said there could be a time this summer when the number of vehicles allowed at events is expanded, but she stood firm the current restriction, saying “this is what we need to do right now.”

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