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Vancouver's Rio Theater pleased with roundtable discussion between province, arts industry

Last Updated Apr 3, 2021 at 2:12 pm PDT

Rio Theatre sign (CityNews)

The province has held a round-table discussion with various members of the arts industry

Rio Theatre owner says they haven't had much consultation with the province during this pandemic

So Corinne Lea says it was nice to finally get a sit-down

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — For months, the Vancouver Rio Theater and now turned Rio Sports Bar has been calling on the province to sit down and have a discussion about the arts industry. And finally, the province held a round-table discussion.

Corinne Lea, the theatre owner, met with around 30 members of various arts organizations, Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C.’s Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport this week.

“We are very pleased,” she says.

Since last November, the province implemented health restrictions shuttering theatres like the Rio. Since then, Lea has asked the province why movie theatres have been lumped in with events and social gatherings instead of being treated like a bar or restaurant?

So to stay afloat, Lea converted the business into a sports bar in January.

After months of emails to the province, Lea and others in the arts industry were finally able to address their concerns in a “positive first step.”


“The important thing is that they understand how the arts work and that we can operate safely,” she says. “It seems like there’s a bit of a misunderstanding where we have been treated differently than say, restaurants and bars. Yet it’s pretty obvious that we can operate safely — even more safe — than most of those places.”

She adds the main takeaway she hopes health officials understand is that their businesses can safely control their environment.

“Also, the issue of capacity was brought up because theatres have been limited to only 50 seats, whereas restaurants and bars are allowed to have their capacity based on social distancing. So, some places have over 100 patrons, whereas theatres have been limited to only 50 and we don’t think that’s fair.”

Lea says she felt like the concerns were able to come across.

“Whether or not Bonnie Henry agrees with us is another thing … the most positive takeaway I took from the meeting, is she did say that hopefully cinemas would be able to open by the end of April. So that was encouraging,” Lea says.

“However, we all know if the numbers don’t go down, nothing’s going to get reopened.”

This week, the province restricted indoor dining with only patios and take-out options permitted, which caused the Rio Sports Bar to be shut down.