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‘Health and safety is our priority’: Chapel Hill bars, movie theaters reopen


Local 506 and Silverspot Cinema at University Place shopping mall on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Bars and cinemas like these are businesses that are reopening as NC moves into Phase 3 of coronavirus recovery.

In January, business was thriving at bar and music venue Local 506. By summer, co-owner Robert Walsh said they were just focused on keeping the lights on. 

Now, they are getting the chance to reopen their bar. 

After being closed since March, bars, movie theaters and other entertainment venues are now allowed to reopen with capacity restrictions after Gov. Roy Cooper moved the state into Phase 3 on Friday. 

Bars must operate at either 30 percent capacity or with 100 guests, whichever is less. They are also limited to outdoor seating only and will have to adhere to an 11 p.m. alcohol curfew. 

Walsh, also the production manager of Local 506, said the business plans to reopen around Oct. 10 with strict health and safety guidelines. 

“We have an outdoor space that we had to kind of build out, we’ll have sanitizing stations, we just bought 5,000 complimentary masks for guests that don’t have them and we’ll be in the bathrooms constantly wiping every single thing down,” Walsh said. “Health and safety is absolutely our priority.” 

Live music venues like Local 506 have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Walsh said the business had events booked through 2021 before the pandemic hit. But by March, they had set up a GoFundMe to help the business and its employees stay afloat. 

Music halls and venues where guests are seated are allowed to reopen under Phase 3 with a 25-person indoor capacity limit. Walsh said for now, Local 506 is only opening as a bar. 

“I don’t even know what the state of live music is going to be after this. It’s been devastating. It’s a miracle we’re still here,” Walsh said. “Our primary function is as a venue; the alcohol is like gravy. So this will be a learning experience and is a chance for us to maybe reinvent ourselves as a bar while live music isn’t here.” 

Movie theaters are also allowed to reopen under Phase 3 with the same capacity restrictions. 

Silverspot Cinema reopened when Phase 3 went into effect on Friday. Like Local 506, the theater will be enforcing health and safety guidelines and will be operating at limited capacity. 

“There will be mandatory required space between people in the theater, and we’re asking our guests to wear a mask as long as they are in public spaces,” Sandra Pascual, the marketing director for Silverspot, said. “We are also following our increased cleaning and disinfecting protocols and are allowing extra time between movies for theater sanitation, and we also offer contactless ordering.” 

Because of these protocols, Pascual said she feels safer in Silverspot’s theaters than in a lot of other public settings and hopes customers feel comfortable coming to see a movie. The theater will also continue to offer private screenings, a program they have run since August, Pascual said. 

Greyson Snyder is an assistant general manager of The Lumina Theater, another theater that plans to reopen soon with various health and safety guidelines. He said movie theaters in the area will likely face high demand upon reopening. 

“I’m sure that there will be more people wanting to see movies than we can allow at one time,” Snyder said. 

Walsh said Local 506 and other bars will likely face similar excess demand, and that enforcing safety guidelines with customers will be the business’s biggest challenge upon reopening. 

“We have to be tough on people, and if they’re not following the rules, they won’t be able to hang out because my biggest concern is people getting sick,” Walsh said. “And if we reopen and things aren’t going the way they’re supposed to be going, I’ll shut the place down. I’ll shut it down because it’s just not worth it. Public health and safety is our priority.”


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