Blue Fox petitions to avoid becoming pandemic casualty

If it can’t open for business soon, the Blue Fox Drive-In may be closing its doors for good, according to the theater’s owner.

As a last-ditch effort to get Gov. Jay Inslee’s attention, owner Darrell Bratt started circulating a petition on Change.org. The petition seeks to allow drive-in movie theaters to operate while under COVID-19 restrictions.

The petition was launched on May 8. By this past Monday, it had obtained more than 50,000 signatures.

“I would have thought at 5,000 signatures or 30,000 in a 24-hour period would have been enough to get attention,” Bratt said.

Since the closure came during the theater’s busy season, and followed a rainy winter with little business, Bratt said he needs to open within the next couple of weeks in order to survive.

“We need to be putting money away in the bank to help make it through the next winter,” he said.

The drive-in, located along Monroe Landing Road just south of Oak Harbor, has been family owned and operated since 1988. Last week, the Blue Fox cancelled a free screening of “I Still Believe.” The drive-in’s owners posted online that they were unable to get clarification from Inslee’s office on when drive-in theaters could reopen.

Bratt said he has called the governor’s office and emailed multiple times but has yet to receive a confirmation as to whether he can operate. He said he even filled out the essential business form online which, he said, “doesn’t mean anything because they’re not going to classify us as an essential business.”

The governor this week started a phased approach to reopening the state.

Bratt said he finds inconsistencies in the state’s plan.

“Drive-in spiritual services” and some outdoor recreation are allowed during phase one,” Bratt said.

“Why is going to a state park all right where they can get out of their car, run around the beach, even have picnics, but a drive-in theater can’t operate and people stay in their cars?” Bratt asked.

Movie theaters are expected to reopen during phase three. However, as part of the phase-three restriction, theaters would only operate at 50 percent customer capacity, according to the governor’s website.

If he were to reopen, Bratt said he would follow health guidelines, which include allowing a maximum of 200 cars in the drive-in, half the maximum of 400.

Bratt said his staff would wear masks and gloves and there would be markings on the ground to ensure customers follow social distancing rules at the concession stand. He would even have an employee monitor the restroom capacity.

Because of the restricted customer capacity, even if he is allowed to reopen soon, Bratt said the future of the drive-in is bleak.

“You can’t take away half your business that you do in a year and expect to survive,” he said.

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