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State Fun Police Shut Down Creative Drive-in-Movie Night At Birch’s On the Lake

The War on Fun continues in Minnesota, as state health officials nixed a plan that would have allowed families to enjoy a drive-in-movie and a meal at Birch’s On the Lake, a popular eatery in Long Lake, Minnesota, from the safety of their cars.

The restaurant came up with the innovative idea because their revenues were down by 70 percent while doing only take out orders during Governor Walz’s Stay at Home order, according to WCCO.

Stir-crazy Minnesotans jumped at the chance to get out of the house and enjoy a movie. “It sold out in a day,” said Burton Joseph, the owner of the restaurant. The restaurant was planning on showing Marvel movies at dusk, charging $10 per car and allowing customers to order food online and pick it up for curbside pickup.

The restaurant’s hygiene protocols were anything but reckless. According to WCCO:

“The plan was to hand out notes to customers explaining the safety rules: stay in their cars, maintain distance, and no alcohol. They would be allowed to call in an order for take-out to eat in their cars.”

But on Monday, state health officials put the kibosh on the innovative plan to allow Minnesota families to feel some sense of normalcy while still being responsible. The state’s actions were clearly a point of frustration for Mr. Joseph, who told WCCO:

“If we’re coming up with the ideas to keep everyone safe at this point I feel like they deserve to give someone a chance,” Joseph said.

Drive in concerts have become popular in Europe, and drive-in-movies will be allowed in Illinois this weekend under protocols established by the Illinois Department of Health, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“A drive-in movie theater owner in far northwest suburban McHenry said he plans to reopen Friday after getting the go-ahead to open despite the Illinois coronavirus business shutdown.

Illinois Department of Public Health officials confirmed the McHenry Outdoor Theater may open under updated guidance issued Saturday by the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.”

“Drive-in movie theatres can operate on a limited basis,” the guidelines state. “Cars must be parked in every-other spot to ensure a minimum six-foot distance between cars. Patrons are not allowed to sit outside of their vehicles to view the movie.”

In addition, the rules state, “To the extent possible, reservations and payments for the theatre should be made in advance online or over the phone… concessions should be ordered online or over the phone and be available for curbside pickup. Restrooms should have sufficient soap and hand sanitizer, and shall be regularly sanitized. Drive-in theatres should also follow the social distancing guidelines set forth in the order.”

It appears the protective measures put in place by Birch’s would have satisfied most of these requirements, however it is unclear if Birch’s was asking movie attendees to park in every-other space. One would assume the owners of the business would have been willing and able to ask customers to abide by this guideline.

One other possible difference was the fact that staff at the McHenry Outdoor Theater would deliver purchased concessions to cars, rather than having movie-goers walk to the concession stand, but all of these differences seem to be easily managed.

These precautions should be enough for the Walz administration. However, as currently written, the stay at home order prevents people from gathering “[I]n any way or assemble any way publicly and because that was part of the extension of the executive order we realized we did not qualify to continue with this series,” said Andrew Walesch, the music director at another local establishment that also wanted to show drive-in-movies.

According to WCCO, the Governor’s order says outdoor recreational activities like performances and spectator events are not allowed during the stay at home order, but this is exactly the wrong idea when it comes to smart and safe ideas like drive-in-movies.

Governor Walz’s Stay at Home order has already punished small businesses owners by making it illegal for them to make a living. Instead of adding insult to injury by outlawing safe and creative ways to provide for their customers, employees, and families, the Governor should be thanking Birch’s for safely doing their part to make this whole situation a little less miserable.

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