Friday, Feb. 12, marked opening day for a lot of indoor entertainment venues in Oregon, which were given the go-ahead to reopen – many of which after nearly a year of being closed. Among them was Living Room Theaters, a downtown Portland theater closed since last March.
According to Oregon Live, declining Covid-19 cases prompted Gov. Kate Brown to shift nine Oregon counties from the state’s “extreme” risk category to the “high” risk category. Bowling alleys and some other indoor entertainment venues were briefly allowed to reopen last fall before being shut down again.
Now, those venues are able to reopen at 25% capacity or 50 total people, whichever is smaller. Some theaters, however, have decided not to open because the state still won’t allow them to sell concessions – even in counties where the risk level for Covid has been deemed lower. According to the National Assn. of Theater Owners, Oregon is the only state to ban food sales.
“I would be willing to consider reopening with 50 people, which is about 8% of my capacity, provided I could sell concessions,” said Tom Ranieri, whose Cinema 21 theater has about 600 total seats across its three auditoriums. “That’s essential. I don’t know any theater operator who thinks opening without concessions is financially doable.”
Still, others are just glad to be allowed to reopen. Dave Husted, owner of Milwaukie Bowl, was among a group that pushed for the state to loosen restrictions on bowling last October. They did, briefly, before being closed again in November.
He said navigating the state’s constantly changing restrictions has been difficult, but this notice comes as a relief. “It’s extremely important (to stay open),” Husted explained. “Everyone has been on life support for quite a few months.”