As coronavirus-related public health orders continue to keep people (at least 6 feet) apart, Loveland’s entertainment sector is doing its best within the rules to bring them back together.
Movie theaters, bowling alleys and other entertainment spots are reopening with new rules on group sizes and masking, and staff members say they are working on more policies to keep themselves and patrons safe.
“In the weeks and months that we’ve been closed, we tried to use our time productively,” Natalie Eig, a representative of Metropolitan Theatres, said.
Her company’s downtown Loveland location, MetroLux Dine-In Theatres, is scheduled to reopen Wednesday, preceded by a “soft opening” of the attached Scripted Bar & Kitchen restaurant this Saturday. The MetroLux 14 Theatres in Centerra will reopen the following week, on June 26.
According to a press release, patrons will be encouraged to buy their tickets online, and safety barriers have been installed at the box office and concession stands.
Decals and signs are being placed on the walls and floors to help patrons socially distance, and fewer people will be allowed in theaters, with at least three empty seats required between parties and every other row empty in traditional theaters.
Face masks will be required until patrons take their seats.
Temperature checks and the wearing of personal protective equipment will also become the norm for employees, and gathering and seating restrictions are being implemented at Scripted.
The lineup of films planned for the theaters’ reopening week includes recent releases such as “Knives Out,” “I Still Believe,” “The Wretched” and “Midway” as well as older films such as “The Goonies,” “Ready Player One” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
Elsewhere in Loveland, Sweetheart Ten Pin Bowling is again welcoming patrons for open bowling by reservation, with a spate of changes meant to cut down on opportunities for spreading disease.
Co-owner Shannon Canfield said the bowling alley tried to be proactive about disinfecting even before it was forced to close as a “noncritical business” in March.
“It was a bit shocking,” she said. “But we knew obviously everyone was doing the best they can with an unknown situation.”
An in-house pro shop and kitchen were also forced to close during the height of the orders.
Since Larimer County successfully applied for a variance from the state’s rules and Sweetheart reopened, besides stepping up regular cleaning, the business has done away with a rack of bowling balls that visitors were allowed to pick from before hitting the lanes.
“People sometimes touch eight to 10 balls until they find the one they want to use,” Canfield said. “We just can’t have that.”
Now, bowlers’ hands are sized before bowling, and they are given a single ball to use.
Only half of the lanes are open, with every other lane closed to ensure social distancing between groups, and bowlers are asked to wear masks when they aren’t sitting down or bowling.
Although the pandemic canceled tournaments planned for April and July, Canfield said she and her husband, Chad, are optimistic about business returning.
“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t host those things, but we also want a safe community,” she said. “We’re looking forward to people starting to come back for open bowling.”
Jeff Willy, who operates Loveland Laser Tag and Time Emporium Escape Rooms in central Loveland, said he and his employees spent the weeks leading up to their June 5 reopening adding fixtures such as touchless sinks in the bathrooms and making other upgrades.
Unlike movie theaters and bowling alleys, which were given some specific guidance on reopening from the county, laser tag and escape rooms fall under the broad heading of “indoor recreation,” and Willy said they had to prepare a unique safety plan, which has since gotten the nod from the county health department.
That plan includes lowering the cap on customers at the laser tag venue from 420 to 125, though limits on reservations mean the peak at any given time is effectively 60 or 70.
“We’re really keeping the number of customers in the building down so we can figure this completely out and get on top of it,” he said. “But, you know, one of the complaints we heard before was people were waiting hours to play. I think the overall experience has improved.”
As in other businesses, regular sanitization is being stepped up, masks are required when not playing, and seating in other areas of the venue is being spaced out.
Willy said visitors probably will notice fewer changes at Time Emporium Escape Rooms, outside of the fact that every booking will essentially be private, meaning small groups won’t be paired with other small groups in sessions.
“It’s kind of the perfect escape for the environment we’re living in,” he said.
“We’re just hoping people want to come in, and play, and have fun again.”