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Rio Theatre set to re-open as sports bar as movie theatres remain closed in British Columbia

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The Rio Theatre is playing a new role – a sport’s bar.



a close up of a busy city street at night: The Rio Theatre.


© Simon Little/Global News
The Rio Theatre.

The iconic Vancouver movie theatre is attempting to work around provincial health orders banning events by shifting from showing movies on a big screen to showing sporting events.

The current order allows for bars and restaurants to operate with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

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“Because movies are not allowed to be played in B.C. we have decided to open up as a Rio sports bar,” Rio Theatre owner Corinne Lea said.

“We are just going to be a regular old sports bar.”

The switch comes amid frustration from Lea over the province’s decision to classify movie theatres as events. Lea has been an open critic of the provincial policy and has often sought clarification for why she could not show movies with COVID-19 protocols in place.

Read more: Coronavirus paints unclear picture for movie theatres heading into 2021

The Rio Theatre has a food and liquor licence similar to a sports bar.

There will be a maximum of six people per group and everyone in the group must be in the same household. There are also restrictions in place on how loud the theatre can play the volume of the screen.

The theatre will be open Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. The plan is to remain open seven days a week, from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the other days.

“Apparently the arts are not safe to go to by the health authorities. Apparently going to a bar to watch sports is more safe than the arts,” Lea said.

The Hollywood Theatre in Vancouver made the shift in December to serving drinks.

–with files from Alan Regan