Can you keep social distance at the drive-in? Starlite Drive-in changes its mind about reopening

Hamilton locals had mixed reactions toward Stoney Creek's Starlite Drive-in plans to reopen for business amid COVID-19. Then the drive-in changed its mind.

'You're better off watching a movie at home,' says one Hamilton resident

A view of Starlite Drive-in Stoney Creek, Ont. To help to make up for the loss of large scale cultural events in Toronto, the city is launching DriveInTO, programming that will provide 'temporary drive-in entertainment experiences' this summer. (Starlite/Facebook)

Stoney Creek's Starlite Drive-in movie theatre announced it will re-open Friday, and then abruptly changed its mind — after some decidedly mixed reaction to the idea among locals. 

On Thursday, Starlite announced on its Facebook page that it had received the "go ahead" from Hamilton Public Health to re-open its facilities to the public. The drive-in had closed on Tuesday in light of concerns around COVID-19. 

But late Friday afternoon, a new post to its Facebook page said "given the evolving situation" it had decided not to open this weekend or for the forseeable future. It noted it has been in consultation with public health throughout the process. 

In order to open, the drive-in said in its announcement that they must follow guidelines suggested by public health, which include: 

  • Cleaning surfaces in the concession and bathrooms with bleach, every 30 minutes 

  • All washroom doors will be propped open so employees and customers don't touch them 

  • Playground, volleyball, videogame machines, picnic tables and chairs are unavailable

  • Employees must wear latex gloves and change them frequently 

  • An employee will supervise the bathroom and lineups, with the women's washroom limited to four people and the men's to three at all times 

  • Pylons will be spaced six and a half feet apart for concession line ups 

  • Guests must park one car per set of poles and an usher will monitor car distance

"We appreciate your cooperation and understanding during these times. We are committed to fully enforcing these rules to ensure a clean and safe environment for our employees and customers," reads the statement. 

A City of Hamilton spokesperson confirmed that Starlite was in touch with Hamilton Public Health about food safety and social distancing measures. They said that "business closures ordered under the province's declaration of emergency apply to specific businesses only." 

Non-essential business closures include restaurants and bars, though take-out and delivery can still operate from locations set up to do so. 

Starlite's original post about opening received 1.3K shares and 575 comments — 348 people liked the post, 107 people loved it and 46 people reacted with an angry face. 

Facebook user Victoria Moreira, commented on the post, "This is so terrible!! We are told to stay home … business(es) have shut down, schools are closed and you are giving everyone a reason to leave the house, which is NOT stopping the curve! Shame on you!!!!" 

Others like Lisa Urban, a Hamilton teacher, told CBC News that if the space is to open, the least they can do is close the concession stand. She says it's better if they charge more per ticket, but allow people to bring in their own food. 

"The problem is, there's still washroom facilities that would remain open, which I'm not sure how they would contain that as well," Urban said, adding that "you're better just to watch a movie at home." 


Jennifer La Grassa


Jennifer La Grassa is a reporter/editor for CBC Windsor. Email: jennifer.lagrassa@cbc.ca