Becky’s Drive-in opening Friday against gov. orders
On Friday, Carbon County moves from red to yellow. And Becky’s Drive-in, which is about 5 miles shy of the county line, plans to reopen, too.
Mary Mayberry, one of the co-owners of Becky’s Drive-In in Walnutport, said it’s frustrating and upsetting to see pop-up drive-ins open in red counties, and their established drive-in is stuck waiting.
Mayberry, who lives in Lancaster County, said these pop-ups have been open for weeks in her county and neighboring Lebanon County.
“It’s not fair. We pay taxes and license fees for the concession stands,” she said.
Pop-up drive-ins charge admission despite just being large parking lots used for festivals with a large backdrop to project the movies on, she said. Mayberry knows of three of them in her area.
That’s why she and the other co-owners of Becky’s Drive-in reached out to state Sen. Mario Scavello’s office for advice. She said they were told to go ahead and open, but to contact the local police to let them know of their reopening.
Drive-ins in yellow counties are permitted to open, as well as those in New Jersey and New York.
“We’re trying to seize the season,” she said. Usually, they reopen around Easter.
Mayberry said she’s pleased with people’s reaction on Facebook. So far, their post about the reopening has nearly 4,000 likes, almost as many shares, and more than 1,000 comments. One of them being, “That’s a light in the darkness,” with a reply of “literally and figuratively.”
Becky’s has been preparing for reopening day for a few weeks now with physical and policy changes.
“We want to keep our customers safe,” Mayberry said. “We’re in our 70s or near it, and we don’t want to get sick.”
One of the changes is the spacing between the vehicles. They will be at least 9 feet apart, which will limit the number of cars admitted to each of the theaters. Screen 1, which usually has 450 cars, will now have 225. Screen 2 will go from 220 to 110 cars.
Mayberry said they realize that by admitting only half as many vehicles, they are going to be impacted financially.
“We probably won’t be as profitable,” she said. “But we hope to make enough money to make it to next year.”
The drive-in still has expenses whether it is open or not. For instance, they still have insurance to pay, taxes, fees and utilities, and loan payments for the new concession stand and digital projection system, she said.
Once parked, patrons do not have to wear a mask if they are sitting inside their vehicles. They can also sit in front of their vehicle, but not beside it.
Masks will be required when walking around the drive-in, going to the restrooms, or going to the concession stand, she said.
Mayberry said they haven’t received any specific guidelines for their industry on how to keep people safe, but they have participated in virtual meetings with the National Association of Theaters of Pennsylvania. The members are sharing ideas of what they are doing to make things safe.
The picnic tables have been removed, and the playground will be fenced off to keep people from getting too close to each other.
Touchless faucets and soap dispensers are going to be installed in the bathrooms.
“This is costing us a lot of money, and we don’t know if we will be able to reopen,” Mayberry said.
Restrooms and concessions
The bathroom stalls will be closed off to keep people further apart, as well, and they will have an employee stationed outside to regulate the number of people going into the bathrooms.
The concession stands are going to operate differently, too. First they might only open one of them. Mayberry said they haven’t decided yet about that.
The new stand will be open for sure, but patrons will have to order outside. They will place their order on one side of the building and walk around to the other side to pick it up.
Dean Deppe, one of the co-owners, said he’s not sure if they will offer everything on their menu in the beginning. He thinks they may start small, then see how it goes.
They are looking into offering the ability to order online, but the one software requires ticket sales be solely online. Deppe doesn’t want to make that change, because he doesn’t want people who are less tech savvy to not be able to get a ticket.
As for the movies, Mayberry said the studios aren’t releasing any first-run shows yet. They might begin releasing them in July though. For now, they plan to show second-run movies and maybe do packages, such as “Back to the Future” weekend. Like everything in this unprecedented time, it’s still being worked out.