British Columbia

Drive-in event organizers crestfallen over new 50-vehicle limit in B.C.

Organizers of concerts, movie nights and school graduations who had hoped drive-in versions of events would comply with COVID-19 regulations say they’ve been set back by a new provincial order limiting the number of vehicles.

Dr. Bonnie Henry made the order Friday afternoon, promoters still hoping for more information

Singer-songwriter Mads Langer performs one of the first drive-in concerts on April 24 in Aarhus, Denmark. The 500-car event sold out in 20 minutes. (

Organizers of concerts, movie nights and school graduations who hoped their drive-in events would comply with COVID-19 regulations say they've been set back by a new provincial order banning gatherings of more than 50 vehicles.

A drive-in rock concert, months in the planning, set for Saturday night in Prince George in northern B.C. is now on hold indefinitely.

Kyle Sampson, a Prince George city councillor and the organizer of Rooftop Rock, says everything was in place for at least 300 vehicles to hear local band Studio 720 perform over their FM radios, while watching them from afar.

"Honestly it was shocking," he said about the order, which was announced at about 3 p.m. Friday.

On Friday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry amended a provincial order regarding gatherings to include drive-in events.

'Several people in a vehicle'

It says that there can be no more than 50 vehicles parked together. Attendees cannot get out of their vehicles other than to use the washroom. Organizers cannot sell food or drinks at the event either.

The announcement of the amendment was made in a release, but Henry spoke to it during her Saturday briefing.

She said she understood that the order would create hardship for many people trying to organize such events, but limiting them was an important part of the Phase 2 transition in B.C.'s pandemic response.

"This is our transition period and we need to watch carefully and do it carefully," she said. "Even though 50 cars may seem like a small amount and it is a less risky environment, we know that if we get people together there will be several people in a vehicle the chances of more contact, meaning spread of this virus is very real right now."

Clarity sought

Organizers like Sampson have reached out to the province for more clarity over the new rules. He is hopeful to still run his event at a future date.

Jason Bashnick, who for more than a decade has hosted outdoor movie screenings and events with Fresh Air Cinema, says several drive-in gatherings, including high school graduations are in jeopardy because of the order.

"It's unfortunate," he said. Organizers thought the outdoor events attended by people in vehicles would keep people safe and enable them to seek entertainment outside of their homes.

"We will work hard to make them work with 50 cars," he said. "It will be tough though."

For example, to run a high school graduation, he may have to run it over several nights with only 50 vehicles attending each night.

Movies still on

Other providers, such as Langley's Twilight Drive-in in the Fraser Valley, say they are still showing movies and are running the concession because it is a drive-in theatre, not a drive-in event. It is proceeding with screenings and food sales this weekend.

It reviewed the new order on Friday and said in an email to CBC News that their facility has proper facilities, such as dedicated washrooms, to meet guidelines. The theatre has been allowed to operate throughout the pandemic.

It has been parking one vehicle in a spot that normally holds two to limit attendees.

The screen at the Twilight Drive-in in Langley, B.C. (Twilight Drive-in)

B.C. Ministry of Health has also not yet responded to questions clarifying how the 50-vehicle limit is intended to work.

Organizers for the Summerset Benefit Concert in Langley were also hoping to duplicate the drive-in concert model and were looking for a venue before the new rules were announced Friday.

With files from Andrew Kurjata


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