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Columbus drive-in theater adding social distancing before re-opening after COVID-19 closure

The South Drive-In hopes to announce its re-opening date within two weeks.

One small business celebrating the right to re-open is the South Drive-in movie theater in south Columbus.

They got word last week that the state has given them the go-ahead to start selling tickets. But before they do, they're making changes to keep movie-goers safe.

The South Drive-in has been entertaining movie fans since the 1950s. May 11 will mark its 70th anniversary.

But instead of action-adventure titles on its High Street marquee, the message: "be safe and stay healthy."

"We were planning on opening March 20 this year, until the stay at home order went into effect," said owner Bryon Teagardner.

He says the loss of six weeks of business is taking a toll.

"Every day I'm looking at numbers, and every day I keep seeing the deficit go up- that we should be bringing in money but we're not. And I'm worried about- is the drive-in going to be around this time next year?"

The on Friday came the good news: the green light from the state to re-open. But Teagardner isn't ready just yet.

"We need to keep everybody safe," he said.

That requires some changes.

"Employees will have gloves and masks and sanitizer available up there. We'll also be providing disinfectant wipes for customers that still wish to use the drive-in speakers. So they can wipe it down before they even touch it."

Part of the plan is to limit the number of vehicles allowed in by 50 percent. Every other parking space will be left empty, and movie-goers who step outside of their cars will be required to wear a mask.

"Whether they're sitting outside to watch the movie, if they're going to the bathroom or snack bar, and when you're interacting with any of our staff or other patrons, and that includes when you pull up to the gate, the driver needs to put their mask on."

He hasn't set a re-opening date yet- but hopes to within the next two weeks. For eager movie fans- the wait is almost over.

"I know you're in a hurry to get out to the drive-in, and we hear you. You just have to hang in there with us and let us get the social distancing in place, so that we can keep you safe and keep our staff safe."

Right after the question of "When are you re-opening?" Teagardner says the next question is: "What movies will you be showing?" He says movie bookings are made week-to-week.

He hopes to answer both of those questions very soon, and will post updates online: https://www.facebook.com/Southdrivein/