World of entertainment slowly opens…with restrictions

by Mick Rhodes |

Remember entertainment? It was that thing we did, in the before times, with our free time and extra money.

Well, it’s back. Sort of.

With daily coronavirus case rates hovering between four and 10 per 100,000 residents for the seventh consecutive day, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Monday we are now allowed to go see a movie, visit a museum, or take the kids to a zoo or aquarium.

Each must operate at or below 25 percent capacity, and masks are mandatory. But it’s something, finally.

And though local entertainment options will remain limited for the immediate time being, one of them—the city’s beloved Laemmle’s Claremont 5 Theater—is definitely coming back in mid-April.

And that bit of good news is coupled with the news that restaurants are also now permitted to open for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, with stringent social distancing, capacity and ventilation requirements.

Also on Monday the AMC Theater chain opened two of its 25 L.A. County venues, in Burbank and Century City. AMC’s San Bernardino County’s movie theaters—including the glistening new dine-in multiplex at Montclair Place—are also free to open at 25 percent capacity or 100 persons, whichever is fewer. No word yet on when the Montclair location will open, but all signs point to soon.

And while all this is no doubt welcome news for Claremonters, many area entertainment options will remain off the table.

For local live theater, the short-term news is disheartening.

“I don’t have any solid dates today and the rules don’t yet apply to [us],” said Candlelight Pavilion Producer Mindy Teuber. “I think I have another month still for indoor entertainment. This week I’m making a new 2021 calendar with a late May restart but need to re-contract the bands and royalties from New York.

“I have to rehire a staff that’s been unemployed for over a year so probably most have new jobs by now. It’s gonna be a long month ahead to get this old theater singing again. I’ll have more solid info to come, but nothing just yet.”

Claremont families got word last week that middle and high school students are due to return to in-person, on-campus learning April 19. But CHS High School Theater Department has no live entertainment planned for the remainder of the school year.

“I think in late fall you will see live theatre with audiences in L.A. County,” said Claremont High School Theatre Director Krista Elhai. “All of our contracts are for virtual shows, and the that won’t change when kids come on campus.”

Claremont’s Alf Museum, on the campus of The Webb Schools, will also remain dark.

“We don’t have a set date for a physical reopening yet, but are hoping for this fall,” said Alf Augustyn Family Curator and Director of Research and Collections, Andrew Farke. “Our physical exhibits remain closed in deference to our location on the Webb campus and associated school restrictions, but we continue a very vibrant digital program until we are able to welcome in-person visitors back to campus.”

Curiously, L.A. County breweries and wineries weren’t part of the spate of limited red tier indoor re-openings.

“Unfortunately, breweries, wineries, and distilleries aren’t allowed to open for indoor consumption until we reach the orange tier, so not much changes right now,” said Claremont Craft Ales co-owner Simon Brown. “However, with the time change, we are expanding our curbside hours and will be opening our patio on Fridays starting April 2.”

Further complicating things for CCA is the new edict that when and if daily new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents fall to between 1 and 3.9, and L.A. County moves to the orange tier, only breweries with on-site, in-house kitchens will be allowed to reopen to indoor customers.  

“Slowly but surely we’ll get there,” said CCA co-owner Emily Moultrie. “I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and longer days.”

Over at Upland’s Last Name Brewing, in San Bernardino County, things are a little different. The county is already allowing some inside patrons inside its tasting room, though with mask, physical distancing and limited capacity requirements.

“Not a lot of changes right now,” said Last Name co-owner Andy Dale. “We will be opening at noon instead of 2 p.m. on weekends as soon as we can hire a couple new part-time people. That’s progress,”

Last Name also re-started its live music component. It’ll be a slow rollout, Mr. Dale said, but local Grateful Dead cover band Pride of Cucamonga will be there Saturday, April 3, and Groove Session will be there later in the month. Last Name hosted its annual Shameless Saturday event this past weekend with live music outdoors, and the turnout was large and enthusiastic despite chilly late afternoon temperatures.

“We are still going to require masks, distancing, and will continue to focus our attention on outdoor fun with perhaps a few tables inside,” Mr. Dale said.

Uncertainty continues for Claremont’s last remaining legitimate full-time music venue, The Press, but owner Steve Rudicel did offer some hope for fans and bands, many whom have been regulars since the Harvard Avenue restaurant/bar/music venue opened in 1997.

“Yes is the plan,” said Mr. Rudicel when asked if The Press will reopen. “When we can keep everyone safe. Nothing more to say now. Except it’s about the safety of workers and customers within that particular space and business model, albeit modified. All of that read against the virus itself, at least what we as lay people can understand.”

And while the increased availability of the COVID vaccines has been a long-anticipated bit of good news, L.A. County health is still reminding folks that outdoor activities are far safer than indoor ones; also to stay masked, as consistent and correct use of masks, especially double-masking, both indoors and outdoors, is very effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19; maintain at least a six-foot distance from those who do not live with; avoid crowds; and of course, get vaccinated when it’s your turn.

“All federally authorized vaccines work well and will help protect you, your family, and your friends against COVID-19,” the health department said on its website.


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