‘It’s nice. It’s home’: Idaho bars, theaters reopen in phase 3

KOOTENAI CO., Idaho – For the first time in a long time, people in Idaho can enjoy a beer inside a bar. 

That’s just the start of new openings across the Gem State as it moves to phase 3 of reopening.  Gatherings up to 50 people are now allowed, with precautionary measures in place. Movie theaters are opening up, too.

It’s been 10 weeks since Stephanie Garcia enjoyed a drink inside her favorite bar, Bob’s 21 Club.  

“You just kind of lost your family,” Garcia said of not being able to go to the bar the last two months.

The place and people at Bob’s 21 Club felt like family to Garcia. She comes several times a week, and she’s not the only one. 

“A lot of them have been lifelong customers,” said Keva Wilhelm-Wolfe, the bar’s owner. “And generational customers that come in this bar, not just to drink, but they come in here to meet.” 

Wilhelm-Wolfe is excited to see her regulars again. Being open for 54 years and having to close down because of the pandemic was difficult. 

While they were closed, Wilhelm-Wolfe said they upgraded the bar and its equipment. They also put in the social distancing measures Governor Little put in his guidelines.

“Seeing and hearing from our customers again is wonderful,” Wilhelm-Wolfe said. “It makes us know that we have a business that’s going to thrive even during this COVID crisis.”

She believes it will take about two months for the bar to get back to where it was before the pandemic.

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Just 20 minutes away, Hayden Discount Cinema saw a quiet start to reopening day. 

“Realistically I think we should’ve been in stage two to begin with,” said Mike Lehosit, owner of the Hayden Discount Cinema. 

Originally, Governor Little had theater openings in stage four, but he announced it would be moved up sooner.

“It’s nice, it’s a relief. I think we can handle things just like a restaurant with social distancing and adjusting the size of the crowds coming in,” Lehosit said.

Even though he just reopened, Lehosit has spent the last few weeks making the most of restrictions. 

“We started to do curbside popcorn and that was quite successful, we had a lot of support from the community,” said Lehosit. 

Then, they put together a makeshift drive-in theater with the help of the community,

“We’ve sold out every day now since it’s been open for about five weeks,” said Lehosit, adding that they were able to have 40 cars full of families enjoy it every night.

At Hayden Discount Cinema, Lehosit can have up to 50 people in an auditorium with social distancing in place. They also provided plastic seat coverings, thanks to a donation from a car dealership, if anyone wanted to use it.

Even with all the changes, business owners are happy to be serving the people that have supported them.

“As soon as I came in and sat down, I was like ‘Oh, okay, we’re back to the norm. I can have my biscuits and gravy and my coffee and see my friends,'” Garcia said. “Love the bartenders. It’s nice. It’s home.”

Phase four is set to begin June 13 as long as there is not a significant rise in cases. In phase four, gatherings of 50 or more people will be allowed along with visits to senior living centers.

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