A person wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past the independent Rio Theatre, displaying a COVID-19 related message on its marquee, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. The Rio Theatre in Vancouver says it’s reopening as a sports bar showing games on the big screen, a move that would work around provincial health orders that allow bars to stay open but theatres to close. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A person wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past the independent Rio Theatre, displaying a COVID-19 related message on its marquee, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. The Rio Theatre in Vancouver says it’s reopening as a sports bar showing games on the big screen, a move that would work around provincial health orders that allow bars to stay open but theatres to close. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

With B.C. movie theatres closed, Rio indie cinema says it will reopen as a sports bar

Operators of the Rio have been frequent critics of provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s guidelines

One of Vancouver’s most prominent independent movie houses is rebranding itself as a sports bar in an attempted workaround of the province’s COVID-19 health orders.

Rio Theatre owner Corinne Lea says as of Saturday the cinema will pivot to operating as a bar that projects sporting events on the big screen.

It’s part of a move that would comply with British Columbia’s guidelines that say restaurants and bars are fine to stay open, but movie theatres aren’t.

“We’re trying to point out how these rules don’t make any sense,” Lea said on Wednesday.

“But at the same time, there’s nothing we can do… except try to figure out how we can keep the doors open.”

The province’s cinemas were forced to close in November and won’t be allowed to reopen until at least early next month.

Lea said she hasn’t heard from health authorities, but her goal is to “work within the rules” and get her business back on its feet in the sporting world.

“We’re all having to pivot and become jocks,” she said.

“All my film geek programmers were trying to Google the NHL and understand what sports are playing when.”

Vancouver Coastal Health declined to comment and representatives for the province did not immediately respond to questions.

Operators of the Rio have been frequent critics of provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s guidelines for local businesses, which Lea said have been “increasingly frustrating” because of their inconsistencies.

For instance, gyms and bowling alleys are allowed to stay open with certain restrictions, while cinemas weren’t granted the same exceptions.

Over the Christmas holiday, the Rio used its theatre marquee to question the province’s approach to safety, pointing out that while theatres were closed, malls were still allowed to operate.

The latest marquee update on Tuesday took a more succinct approach: “Screw the arts. We’re a sports bar now.”

The Rio isn’t the first Vancouver movie house to experiment with a different business model. Last month, the city’s Hollywood Theatre reopened as a bar, serving cocktails and snacks, but not showing films.

Other indie theatres across the country have taken less bold routes to survival after being forced to close under their local health guidelines.

Some continued to operate concession stands or sell alcohol, while the owners of Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema chose to permanently close in December rather than face an uncertain future.

ALSO READ: Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

David Friend, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusMovies

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon-Monashee NDP MLA Harwinder Sandhu. (Contributed)
Vernon MLA marks International Women’s Day with first in-person legislature appearance

Harwinder Sandhu to speak in local panel hosted by CFUW later tonight

Vernon’s Zach Anderson, who now resides in Perth, Australia, has raised awareness and more than $6,400 for the #SickNotWeak charity in regards to depression in honour of friend Justin Mitchell’s late father, Glenn, the former managing editor of the Morning Star. Anderson finished an event in Perth called 4 x 4 x 48, which meant running four miles every four hours for 48 hours. (Zach Anderson photo)
Vernon runner completes gruelling Aussie event in honour of friend’s father

Zach Anderson raised funds and depression awareness in memory of Glenn Mitchell

Community Foundation North Okanagan is now accepting applications for its annual Smart and Caring Community Grants program. (CFNO photo)
Cash available for North Okanagan non-profits

Community Foundation North Okanagan seeks applicants for its annual Smart and Caring Grants program

The current B.C. Men’s curling champions, Rick Sawatsky (Vernon and now living and working in Kelowna, from left), Andrew Nerpin (Kelowna), Jim Cotter (Vernon) and Steve Laycock (Saskatoon), have yet to find the win column at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary. (Black Press - file photo)
B.C. looking for Brier victory

Team B.C. falls to 0-2 Sunday, March 7, with 10-7 loss to Wild Card 1 entry from Manitoba

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Five Kelowna writers are featured in an anthology that launched in time for International Women's Day. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
International Women’s Day: Book exploring fears features Kelowna writers

The book has launched in time for International Women’s Day

YouTube.
LETTER: Stop torture of horses

Summerland woman calls for the end of shipping of live horses to Japan

A group of men pose for a photo at the Griffin Lake internment camp. (Submitted)
Volunteers wanted to help commemorate internment camps in Shuswap

There were six camps along the Highway 1 cooridor between Sicamous and Revelstoke.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Carson Meikle prepares a hot beverage while his mother, Jenna Meikle, is busy in the background at The Night Cafe, located at 146 Lakeshore Drive. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Artistic Shuswap entrepreneurs branch into culinary arts with The Night Café

Adam and Jenna Meikle grateful for ongoing community support

Software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, has been forced to re-skill during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than six years of unsuccessfully applying for jobs in B.C.’s tech industry. (Submitted photo/Shaimma Yehia)
Why skilled immigrant women continue to be shut out of B.C.’s booming tech sector

Experienced software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, hasn’t found a job since she migrated to Canada 6 years ago

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover digging in with B.C.-made part

Kennametal’s Langford plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

Most Read