Colorado drive-in movie theaters are reopening illegally, according to state

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UPDATE: On Tuesday, the state said drive-in theaters are allowed to reopen.

ORIGINAL STORY:

DENVER (KDVR) — Drive-in movie theaters must remain closed, according to a Monday statement released to FOX31 from the Colorado Joint Information Center.

“Under the Safer at Home executive order, drive-in theaters are considered entertainment and are not allowed to open,” the statement read. “Local public health agencies can pursue enforcement remedies if businesses are operating in violation of an executive order.”

Various drive-in theaters are currently open in Colorado.

Nationwide, there’s renewed interest in resurrecting the popularity of drive-in theaters. People like the idea of being able to achieve physical distancing by isolating themselves in their own vehicles.

Misty Flachman, who manages the Denver Mart Drive-In near Interstate 25 and East 58th Avenue in Adams County, has been spending weeks preparing to reopen on Memorial Day weekend. 

Flachman said she produced a business plan that ensures distancing and mask wearing requirements. She told FOX31 she contacted Tri-County Health Department to make sure she was doing everything right. She said she was given the green light last Monday to open, but that assurance did not last long.

“This morning we got word that they weren’t going to allow us to open this Friday,” Flachman said.

Tri-County Health told Flachman a state mandate will keep the drive-in gates closed, according to Flachman.

“We have involved our attorney, and he is looking over everything that the state has put out, and there is no specific language for drive-ins,” she said.

On Monday evening, Tri-County Health said the state’s health order was ambiguous. The local health authority interpreted the language to allow drive-in theaters to reopen. Later in the evening, Tri-County Health changed course after the state told FOX31 drive-in theaters are not currently allowed to open.

“We really didn’t understand what was approved last week is all of a sudden not approved this week,” Flachman said.

The drive-in theater issue is the latest example of government regulatory confusion as Colorado navigates a phased reopening. 

“Next week, Gov. Polis is expected to make announcements regarding whether additional businesses can open,” the state’s statement read. “Until then, the current orders are in place. The Safer at Home orders strongly encourage remaining at home as much as possible to avoid further disease transmission. When allowing businesses to open, we look at overall crowd size, use of common facilities such as restrooms, as well as crowding in concession areas and in playground and park areas. We are working regularly with a number of businesses to find ways for them to safely open.”

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