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‘Cautious optimism’ - Shuttered Fernie businesses look to open back up

The Fernie Legion and Vogue Theatre are two businesses that are free to open again in coming days and weeks

Businesses in Fernie are dusting off the tables and welcoming patrons back indoors after the loosening of COVID-restrictions on May 25.

The Fernie Legion, which was ordered to close and had been hemorrhaging money opened on May 27 following a quick search for a new bar keep and a rapid re-opening.

Legion President, Jeannie Watson said they were relieved, but remained cautious.

“Well let’s hope this lasts,” she said.

The Legion has been quick to prepare for the re-opening, having already hired a new bar keep. The Legion had been down to a skeleton crew of employees as a result of the closure.

Watson said they would still be operating fairly lightly in the coming weeks, as they were still barred from doing meat draws as they were considered events.

Instead, it would be doors open for visitors and drinks, and fingers crossed.

“Not just on the patio, but actually bring your friends and come in like it was before, we can get back to some sort of normalcy.”

For the Vogue Theatre in Fernie, opening day is still a way off yet, but it’s on the radar.

Under the four-step plan announced by the B.C. Government, cinemas will be permitted to open their doors from June 15 at the earliest.

Co-owner of the theatre Dennis Djonlich said that they had “cautious optimism” for the future, with an emphasis on the caution given the cinema sector had been effectively closed for over a year now.

“We closed March 15 of 2020, we were able to open a couple of times for stretches,” said Djonlich.

“We didn’t get any momentum or people (through the doors), so from a business standpoint we’ve been closed for a while.”

Details on what a re-opening for the cinema sector are light, according to Djonlich, so they were going to be playing it by ear.

“That’s the cautious part of the optimism. It all depends on how it goes and levels of vaccination, positively rates and all that stuff. We don’t really know what to expect, we’re just playing it day by day.

“I don’t think we’ll open the day that we can, we’ll probably see how it goes and maybe open the week after,” he said, adding that content was another problem yet to be overcome.

“There’s lots of work left to do - a date is great, it’s the first step. Hopefully we can get to that date, and we can be open in June and slowly build back based on content and people’s comfort in coming back to an indoor meeting place.”

Djonlich said he wasn’t holding out for any grand re-opening, but felt the cinema was more likely to feel its way through the next few months on the way back to normality.

“Hopefully there’s some good news along the way.”

The light at the end of the tunnel has been a long time coming, but Djonlich said the sector was still hurting.

“It’s been tough as a little business - to be closed that long, it’s been hard. It’s been nothing but bills, and unfortunately the industry has not been supported by the government … so it’s been tough.”

The future of the Fernie cinema was never at risk though, said Djonlich, and closing up permanently hadn’t been an option (yet).

“I think if thing had gone on for another year or so, those thoughts would have come in, but it was always our intention to keep the lights on.

“It’s been open for 113 years, and I aint gonna be the one to close it.”

READ MORE: Pass the popcorn: Vogue Theatre offers delivery movie snacks
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