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News >  Idaho

Idaho theaters, bars back in business as state moves forward with reopening plan

Shae Mouchett and her husband Alex Mouchett watch "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" at Hayden Discount Cinema’s drive-in on Friday, April 24. The theater is reopening its indoor theater Saturday as part of Stage 3 of Idaho’s reopening plan. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Shae Mouchett and her husband Alex Mouchett watch "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" at Hayden Discount Cinema’s drive-in on Friday, April 24. The theater is reopening its indoor theater Saturday as part of Stage 3 of Idaho’s reopening plan. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
By Ellen Dennis For The Spokesman-Review

More than two months after he opened a new drive-in theater designed to keep customers coming despite COVID-19 restrictions, Hayden Discount Cinema owner Mike Lehosit will open the doors of his indoor theater today

Hayden Discount Cinema is one of the many Idaho theaters and bars permitted to reopen today under Stage 3 of Gov. Brad Little’s “Idaho Rebounds” plan.

While not every business is taking advantage of the option to open its doors now, Lehosit said he couldn’t afford to wait.

“It must be nice to have that kind of money – to be able to sit around with a business empty,” Lehosit said. “I know I can’t afford to sit around with a business empty not generating any income.”

Little announced at the beginning of May his plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy after its coronavirus-caused closure.

Despite rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the state, Little said in a news conference Thursday his decision to move Idaho into Stage 3 of that plan, “as long as protocols to protect workers, and the public, are followed.”

Stage 3 permits movie theaters and bars to open – a step originally scheduled for mid-June – along with allowing gatherings of up to 50 people and nonessential interstate travel.

Lehosit said he will be taking precautions in his reopened theater, including requiring all employees to wear masks and gloves, sectioning off alternating theater rows to enforce social distancing and continuing his operation of the drive-in theater outside.

“We’ll probably have 50-60 people per auditorium instead of 150,” he said.

Lakers Inn, a bar in downtown Coeur d’Alene, will be operating at half-capacity with limited seating to comply with social distancing, general manager Kelsey Stevens said. But employees will not be required to wear masks. The bar will also be taking temperatures at the door and turning away non-Idaho residents.

“We are not allowing anyone with an out-of-state ID in our bar for the first little while, just because so many people from Spokane have been coming over here and crowding the bars,” Stevens said. “We have a lot of regulars who we appreciate and respect – we want them to be able to come back and enjoy the bar instead of having it crowded with out-of-state people.”

Another Idaho bar, the Corner Club of downtown Moscow, opened its doors right when the clock struck midnight Friday.

Jack Fellman, a Moscow resident and frequent patron of the bar, said he was happy to finally reconnect with good friends and support one of his favorite local establishments again.

“They’re a great local establishment. I’ve worried about a lot of businesses in town. We’re very fortunate here to have a strong sense of community support, so a lot of places have been able to stay open through carryout or delivery services, but unfortunately places like bars really can’t do that,” Fellman said.

“Going to a bar is inherently going to be risky,” he continued. “I don’t really interact with anybody in an at-risk population. I wash my hands, try not to touch my face, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to hug at least a few people I haven’t seen in a while.”

Stage 3 of Little’s plan is scheduled to last until June 13, at which point Stage 4 – allowing large venues and nightclubs to reopen – will begin if a set of criteria outlined on the plan’s website is met.

Those criteria include a downward trend in, or low numbers of, patients reporting COVID-19-like illness at emergency departments over the most recent 14-day period.

The governor’s scheduled stages of reopening are contingent on this data, which will be reviewed by the Idaho Division of Public Health and the governor’s Coronavirus Working Group.

If reported case trends begin to move the wrong direction or there is evidence that one of the four stages has contributed to an increase in reported case rates, stages may have to be extended or reversed.

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