Drive-in restrictions means events designed for the pandemic likely won’t go ahead

VANCOUVER —
Two months of careful planning to bring shows and events to cities across Metro Vancouver will likely be scrapped, unless the B.C. government relaxes its drive-in rules.

As B.C. starts to carefully restart many sectors that were shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many event organizers hoped to open in a new drive-in format that would keep patrons in their cars.

But B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has restricted outdoor driving events to no more than 50 cars.

Event organizer Promosa planned to convert fields and parking lots into drive-ins to show nightly movies, concerts and comedy shows.

Promosa said it would need at least a 150-car capacity to make ends meet.

“Our industry has been devastated,” said Scott Emslie, director of business development at Promosa. “So many of our partners are trying to find a way to survive. We saw the drive-in as our lifeline.”

His team was also planning graduations, church services and weddings. They’ve been working with Cineplex, Live Nation and The Jazz Festival. A venue downtown Vancouver was chosen for Pride events and the Vancouver International Film Festival.

“Our goal is to bring people together, because honestly, it really feels like people need it right now,” said lighting and touring manager Jaime DeVloo.

At their headquarters in East Vancouver, staff wore masks at their desks. And every employee had their own disinfectant spray bottle. They are confident they can put on safe events with more than fifty vehicles.

“Absolutely,” said Mitch Merilees, the team’s production and safety coordinator. “It’s just important that we have more keen eyes to make sure things are running like they’re supposed to.”

He means spectators must stay in their cars, except for brief trips to the washroom. Staying put would be a condition of admission. Tickets would be scanned through car windows, without the need to roll them down. Food and drinks would be brought to vehicles and left on side-view mirrors. The more cars, the more staff would be brought-in to keep a careful watch.

“It’s super important that we have those diligent eyes, but as long as we have enough, which we plan to do, we’ll be totally fine with a 150 cars,” added Merilees.

BC’s top doctor remains sceptical.

“We know that people don’t stay in their cars all the time at these events,” said Henry. “The more people we have, the more chances we have that this virus can spread to a lot of other people.”

Henry is also concerned if someone does get sick, the patient will be harder to track down, if the exposure occurs in a large crowd. And she pointed out that each car could contain a group of people, pushing the actual attendance number higher.

The BC Government discusses these rules on a regular basis, and hinted if the province’s situation continues to improve, they might be relaxed.

But Promosa said they’re running out of time. Within a month every show they planned will need to be cancelled.

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