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The organizer behind a drive-in theater says he wants clarification on COVID restrictions after being told he should stop the operation less than two hours before the film begins.
David Howard, president of The Event Group, said the Gray Eagle Drive-In was preparing to show a screening of Dirty Dancing at 7 p.m. Thursday night when they learned they had to close the event.
The drive-in, located near the Gray Eagle Casino of the Tsuut’ina First Nation, had held five screenings the previous week.
“We contacted both AHS (Alberta Health Services) and Indigenous Health,” Howard said. “The two rated drive-in movies were sure to keep going. Last weekend we ran shows on Friday and Saturday night without any incident. “
He said the venue also had drive-thru concerts scheduled for this month, but AHS ended those when new restrictions were announced in early May.
“We had to rotate really quickly and set up films, so we did,” Howard said.
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He said on Thursday that organizers had heard rumors that AHS may have changed their minds about drive-thru movies. Howard tried to contact AHS throughout the day, without getting clear answers.
“We weren’t even informed directly,” Howard said. “It was a notice that went to the Tsuut’ina Nation.”
He said organizers had to scramble to email all ticket holders and get them a refund. And it will be necessary to do the same for future events that were planned throughout the month of May.
“We are lost,” Howard said. “On the one hand, no message was broadcast. No information was posted on their website. No direct communication with us took place. “
He said what really irritates him is that places of worship are being encouraged to hold drive-thru services as a safe alternative to indoor worship services.
The latest restrictions on worship services allow 15 people inside, but the province’s website recommends drive-through worship services where people stay in their cars as a safe alternative.
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In an email, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) said Gray Eagle Casino had contacted an environmental public health officer with ISC to ask if the drive-in was allowed under current health restrictions. After consulting with Alberta Health, they determined that such a gathering was not allowed due to Calgary being an area of high cases.
Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said the province was not involved in this specific incident, but confirmed that current provincial rules prohibit driving entertainment due to the risk of people leaving their homes. car to mingle.
“This measure is temporary but necessary to help bring the curve back down once more,” he wrote in an email.
McMillan said the temporary ban also extends to graduation ceremonies behind the wheel. He said car worship services were still allowed.
“This balances the overall risk and supports Albertans now that in high traffic areas attendance at car-free worship is limited to 15 people,” McMillan said.
On Friday morning, Natalie Hunter, owner of Canyon Meadows Cinema, canceled a planned drive-in event in the cinema parking lot scheduled for the evening. Hunter said she contacted AHS for clarity after concerned customers told her about the Gray Eagle drive-through.
“I spoke to AHS this morning and they said, ‘Yeah, drive-ins are not allowed,’ Hunter said. “I said, ‘Were you going to call me? This is really ridiculous.
“The lack of communication between the government, AHS and the companies trying to survive is just ridiculous.”
Canyon Meadows Cinema had rented an inflatable screen and successfully hosted Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings last weekend.
“Why is it less safe than going to Costco?” Hunter asked. “You are sitting in a parking lot. I just don’t understand risk management. “
Howard said his company was working hard to go beyond what was recommended in terms of safety by spacing vehicles out, keeping people off the platforms of trucks and only providing pre-purchased food. when customers arrived. The only time people could leave their cars was to go to the bathroom.
“We try to play by the rules,” he said. “We ask that this be reversed. It is a unique opportunity to go out. “