Movies, bowling, indoor dining back on the menu as Alberta moves to Stage 2 reopening

It’s a big day for many Alberta businesses as they prepare to invite customers back inside after several months of locked doors, shuttered windows and calls sent to voicemail, due to COVID-19 health restrictions.

'It's been a long six months,' theatre manager says

Bowling alleys, museums, casinos, movie theatres and libraries may reopen at 30 per cent capacity Thursday as part of the province's Stage 2 COVID-19 relaunch. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Some businesses in Alberta are ready to invite customers back after several months of blinds pulled over windows, locked doors and calls sent to voicemail, due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Stage 2 of Alberta's summer reopening plan allows entertainment venues, closed since last December, to open again Thursday. 

Movie theatres, casinos, cinemas, museums, galleries and libraries are free to open at 30 per cent of fire code capacity. Restaurants are welcoming customers for indoor dining for the first time since early April, with a maximum of six people per table.

Stuart Passey, general manager of the Cineplex Cinemas in North Edmonton, said staff are more than ready to reopen. 

"It's been a long six months, so we're super excited to be welcoming our guests back into the theatre," Passey told CBC's Edmonton AM on Wednesday. 

Passey said he's encouraging moviegoers to book ahead online but they do accept walk-in customers. 

"If you purchase your tickets, our system will actually block any seats around your party so that everybody is safe and socially distant."

The Metro Cinema at the historic Garneau Theatre is getting ready to reopen for screenings June 18.

Executive director Dan Smith said the Metro group wants to see how the reopening goes before officially raising its curtain. 

Masks and physical distancing are required throughout Stage 2. When going into a theatre, for example, people must wear masks until they're seated. 

Plexiglass ready

Trevor Stride with Plaza Bowling on 118th Avenue and 104th Street said the bowling alley has retained plexiglass barriers between lanes that were installed last summer and has every other lane is closed off. 

Waitress Tracy Laveque serves patrons as they enjoy dining in at Hunter's Country Kitchen in February. Alberta will allow indoor dining in restaurants, starting Thursday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Stride said in the past few weeks, they've been cleaning, doing maintenance on the equipment and reconnecting with suppliers and staff. 

They're booking groups with up to six people starting on Thursday. 

"We recognize a lot of the names that are coming in," Stride said. "It seems like a lot of people who support us on the regular are coming down tomorrow and throughout the weekend to show us some support and hit the lanes again." 

River Cree Resort and Casino has implemented similar measures on a large scale. 

CEO Vik Mahajan said barriers have been installed between slot machines and at game tables. 

"We did this once before so we're ready for it this time," Mahajan said.

With a total floor capacity of 6,000 people in the complex, Mahajan is expecting a crowd of possibly 1,800 people to return on Thursday.

"There's a lot of pent-up demand — casinos have been closed for six months, so I do expect a lot of people."

Stage 2 brings big changes

During Stage 1, restaurant dining was restricted to patios for up to four household members per table, or three people if diners who live alone were with two of their closest contacts.

In Stage 2, people are allowed to dine indoors again with up to six people per table and no requirement that they be from the same household.

Gyms and fitness studios can reopen for solo and drop-in activities and indoor fitness classes with three-metre distancing. Personal and wellness services like hair salons and spas can now accept walk-in clients.

Outdoor social gatherings of up to 20 people are now permitted. Up to 20 people can attend a funeral or wedding, outdoors or indoors.

Retail businesses and places of worship can have up to one-third of fire code occupancy.

The government says 65 per cent of eligible Albertans have had their first COVID-19 vaccine shot. Launching Stage 2 was contingent on 60 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and older having a first dose.

Stage 3 is expected to begin in late June or early July, if 70 per cent of eligible Albertans have had at least one vaccine dose.