By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — Though the transition to phase three of the state’s reopening looks to have little impact on most local businesses, train rides at the NC Transportation Museum will become available and movie theaters will welcome guests for the first times in six months.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Wednesday that the state will move into its next phase of reopening on Friday at 5 p.m. as COVID-9-related trends and metrics have remained stable throughout the month of September. Face coverings remain mandatory and gathering limits remain in effect, and phase three will primarily impact outdoor venues, amusement parks and bars.
While large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 allows 7% capacity, small outdoor venues can operate at 30% capacity, or 100 guests maximum. Movie theaters and conference centers can reopen at 30% capacity or 100 seated guests. Bars can allow for 30% capacity outdoors.
Mass gatherings remain at 25 people inside and 50 people outside, and the 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption will remain in effect.
James Meacham, director of the county’s Tourism Development Authority, said the next phase of reopening won’t have much impact on local businesses since the gathering limits didn’t change. When those limits are expanded, it will have greater implications for the tourism and hospitality sector.
Nonetheless, the next phase allows for more opportunities for local residents, he said, and the measures in place are sound.
Mark Brown, a spokesperson for the NC Transportation Museum, said train rides will become available at 30% capacity for passengers on Oct. 9. One train can hold a total of 113 people per ride, but the maximum capacity for each train car differs. Prices will remain the same, he said.
Train rides will be available:
• Fridays at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.
• Saturdays at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
• Sundays at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Just as frequently touched areas of the museum are cleaned periodically, Brown said, train cars will be also be disinfected in between rides. Additionally, passengers will enter in one door and exit out of another.
Brown said having exhibits open has allowed the museum to “once again be who we are.” It’s a relief, he said, that train rides can become available again as they’re a central feature of the museum.
And while the date is yet to be determined, the museum will also bring back turntable rides and reopen the orientation room. The orientation room airs informative videos about the museum.
Brown added that maintaining social distancing is easy since the museum sits on a 60-acre site.
The Cinemark Tinseltown USA movie theatre, located at 305 Faith Rd., will reopen on Oct. 9, after being closed for nearly six months. Some of the newest films that could air include “Infidel,” “Unhinged,” “The New Mutants,” “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” “The Broken Hearts Gallery” and “Tenet.”
Cinemark Holdings, Inc., which owns the theatre, stated in a news release that all theaters will practice enhanced cleaning and sanitation measures, and each location will have a designated “chief clean” and “safety monitor” on duty. Safety measures include disinfecting each auditorium between showtimes using pressurized sprayers, seat-buffering technology that automatically blocks seats adjacent to other moviegoers and the use of fans to circulate fresh air. Face masks will be mandatory for employees and guests, and hand sanitizer and wipes will be available for customers.
Additionally, showtimes will be staggered. Moviegoers looking for a more personal viewing experience can book a private watch party and host a private screening with up to 20 guests starting at $99.
The third phase brings no change to local bars and breweries serving food like The Fish Bowl, which hasn’t experienced more than 30 people inside at one time since reopening, said owner Chris Ostle. While some local venues have hosted live music, such as New Sarum, the Fish Bowl has opted not to host live events.
Elaine Spalding, president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber hoped to see an increase in gathering limits. But as Cooper’s order also allows banquet halls to host 100 people now, she said businesses may use that opportunity for hosting events.
She added that businesses have done a wonderful job at being creative with their operations.
“I’ve been amazed at our Rowan County businesses,” she said.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.