Things to do: Butler County improving outdoor offerings as coronavirus precautions continue

Holiday Auto Theatre drive-in opened last weekend in Hamilton after being closed for nearly two months due to the coronavirus. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Holiday Auto Theatre drive-in opened last weekend in Hamilton after being closed for nearly two months due to the coronavirus. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Some organizations have adjusted their operations due to the coronavirus, but at least they’re open as residents look for reasons to enjoy the outdoors.

Butler County’s only drive-in theater had its second grand opening of the year last weekend; MetroParks of Butler County is seeing a 20-percent increase in visitors; and Shaker Run, the area’s only 27-hole golf course, is reporting the same number of tee times as last year.

Starting today, retail stores throughout the state are allowed to reopen and on Friday, barbers, nail salons, day spas, tanning facilities and hair salons will reopen and restaurants will be allowed to host outdoor dining. Restaurants are permitted to reopen indoor dining on May 21, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said.

MORE CORONAVIRUS: Coronavirus: What’s reopening this week in Ohio

Last weekend, Holiday Auto Theater drive-in opened for the second time this year. The Hamilton drive-in operated for two weekends in March, then closed after DeWine shut down all theaters.

Holiday’s co-owner Todd Chaney said the drive-in made several changes in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19, including reducing the number of cars allowed in the lot, encouraging those who sit outside their vehicles to wear protective masks, and enforcing social distancing in the concession stand and restrooms.

He said the modifications went “very well” as most of the customers followed the rules.

Of the three days, Saturday was the busiest, even though temperatures dropped into the low 40s, he said. The drive-in holds about 550 cars and about 175 — 50 percent of the normal crowd this time of year — attended the double feature Saturday, he said. He expects some shows to sell-out this summer if the COVD-19 restrictions aren’t lifted.

Drive-ins throughout the U.S. are being aided by movie companies discounting the cost of renting movies due to the limited movies being produced. The catalogue of possible titles offers some “good stuff,” Chaney said.

This weekend, double feature is the Invisible Man at 8:50 p.m. and The Hunt at 11:05 p.m.

Chaney said he hopes the drive-in opens seven nights a week beginning May 22.

Since the “stay-at-home” order was issued on March 23, there has been “an uptick” in attendance at all MetroParks locations, especially on the trails, both paved and natural trails, said Becky Vanderpool, senior manager of Park Connections.

She said there has been a 20 percent increase in visits to Voice of America MetroPark with 44,086 counted between March 23-April 30, up from 36,568 counted for the same time period in 2019. The increase is even “more significant” since the Ronald Reagan Lodge has been closed and all events have been cancelled, Vanderpool said.

Fees to launch hand carried watercraft and for fishing in the northern most lake at Voice of America MetroPark have been waived until further notice, she said.

All playgrounds and indoor locations are closed until further notice. Educational and nature programs have been cancelled through June 1, Vanderpool said.

While Joe Robertson, director of marketing at Shaker Run in Lebanon, said the number of tee times is about the same as this time last year, he said the course is hampered because only one golfer is permitted in each cart. With a limited number of carts available, Robertson said the capacity for golfers dropped from 200 to 100.

Shaker Run generates about 10 percent of its revenue through golf outings, Robertson said. He said no outings have been held this year, though three of the four scheduled for May have been rescheduled and he hopes to reschedule two of the three set for June.

The course also have made several changes related to COVID-19, including: santizing carts before and after each round; no more than two guests allowed in the golf shop; no bunker rakes; no water coolers or ball washers; and the flag sticks must remain in the holes.

Robertson said the course will use its wrap around deck to seat outside diners, then allocate the front of the ballroom for inside dining once that’s allowed.


TELLING YOUR STORIES

We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email rick.mccrabb@coxinc.com.

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