The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect every area of American life, and many venues and gathering places remain closed or are operating well below capacity. While the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines gives hope of a return to normalcy, the transition will happen slowly over the next several months. In the meantime, many venues are reopening cautiously, with safety for the guests and staff at the forefront, and communicating and implementing these safety protocols can be a lot for venue managers.
We’ve compiled some standard guidelines for you, as a venue manager, to reference as restrictions around the country continue to change.
Let Guests Know What Steps You Are Taking to Keep Them Safe
In a Harris Poll conducted in December of 2020, most consumer respondents said they don’t plan to resume most of their normal activities for half a year or more. 48% reported they don’t plan to attend a sporting event for at least six months, and 40% said they wouldn’t go to a movie theater for another six months.
This means that letting guests know what measures your venue is taking to make a night out a safe experience can help build confidence.
Include information on your venue's website and social media that details steps you are taking, such as enhanced air filtration, reduced capacity, and enhanced cleaning.
Cinemas can announce staggered show times to reduce wait time and crowds in venue lobbies. Show charts that exhibit the ways you are using reduced capacity to keep appropriate physical distancing between guests, such as pod seating that allows guests to buy tickets in small groups where they’ll be seated with their group but safely distanced from other groups.
Most facilities can benefit from efforts like modified concessions with contactless payments that can reduce the risk of transmission. Many venues are eliminating communal condiments and food containers that require shared serving utensils.
Mobile ticketing is another way to reduce contact and make getting into the venue for a show quicker and easier.
In addition to these safety measures, many cinemas are also offering private showings so that guests who are all within the same bubble can enjoy movie showings together. These showings can be operated with limited concessions and special safety guidelines to allow guests to enjoy the theater experience with minimal risk.
Internal Communication for Safety
It is just as important that your employees receive training in how to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Every employee should be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and your facility should have policies that make it easy for employees to take time off if they are exhibiting symptoms, if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or if they need to care for someone in their household who’s tested positive and is exhibiting symptoms.
Train all employees in enhanced cleaning techniques. All auditoriums should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between shows. Have employees wipe down high touch surfaces like door handles and arm rests periodically using EPA-registered disinfectants.
Make Safety Guidelines for Guests Clear and Easy to Follow
When guests come to your location, make it easy for them to follow the guidelines that will keep them safe. Display signs prominently requiring masks for entry. Let visitors know that masks should be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking.
Post symptoms of COVID-19 so that customers understand the risks and when they should stay home. These signs include fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, and shortness of breath. Let guests who are experiencing these symptoms know to stay home for now so that they and others can enjoy a show in the future.
Use markings on the floor and barriers to ensure social distancing at all times. Guides make it easier for customers to remember proper spacing to keep them and your employees safe.
Place hand sanitizer in easily accessed areas throughout your venue. The visual reminder and ease of access increases the chances that guests will continue to take actions to keep hands clean and reduce the risk of transmission.
Post signs reminding guests to wash hands frequently and thoroughly. The CDC provides printable posters that can be displayed in washrooms in your facility.
Participate in Programs That Standardize Safety
As venues begin to reopen, standardized plans can help keep visitors consistently safe, no matter where they are visiting. The CinemaSafe program, for instance, was developed by theaters to ensure a safe return to the movies. CinemaSafe is a cooperative program that involves over 420 movie theaters with over 3000 locations throughout the U.S. In cooperation with leading epidemiologists, they have developed guidelines that can reduce the risk of transmission while keeping the movie-going experience as enjoyable as possible for everyone.
Theaters that have pledged to adhere to these guidelines display the CinemaSafe logo on their signage and all marketing materials. This logo lets guests know that theaters and their employees are adhering to CDC, state and local guidelines, as well as expert recommendations.
Engaging in safety protocols and communicating your efforts to the public are both key to a safe reopening. As we continue to work our way through the new normal, keeping up lines of communication and consistently putting safety first is of prime importance. There is still a long way to go before a vaccine is fully deployed and its effects are felt. In the meantime, we can continue to work to keep the entertainment experience accessible as possible while balancing the safety of our workers and our guests.