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Local non-essential businesses start reopening with guidelines

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LAKE COUNTY – Open signs went up in businesses in Lake County earlier this month after being closed for nearly two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We have done pretty well,” said Joanne Simpson of the Sandpiper Art and Gift Gallery, located on Main Street in downtown Polson. “Everyone who has come into the shop seems to be on a mission and bought something. Our anticipated restart expectations have been exceeded.”

Only businesses considered essential were permitted to remain open during the stay-at-home order. The recent phase-one reopening allowed businesses an opportunity to open their doors.

Reopening requires a few changes to how things are done, including social distancing, limiting capacity and sanitation protocols.  

“We promised ourselves if we opened, we would wear masks to show respect to our customers,” said Simpson. “We have disinfectant wipes to wipe down the doors and counters. We also have hand sanitizers that everyone can use.” 

While many establishments were only allowed to offer curbside pick-up and delivery services during the shutdown, sit-down style restaurants were also able to open their doors on May 4.

“Customers are excited to get back in here,” said Ryan Avison, owner of Cove Pizza and Deli in Polson. “It’s nice to see people visiting and to hear chatter back in here again. It’s a great atmosphere.”

On Thursday, May 7, Gov. Steve Bullock announced additional guidelines to the state’s phased COVID-19 pandemic reopening plan, which allowed movie theaters, gyms and museums the option to reopen last Friday. The Showboat Cinemas in Polson and the Entertainer Cinema in Ronan will remain closed until early to mid-June. “We are tentatively scheduling for a June 19 reopening,” said Becky Dupuis, co-owner of Polson Theatres, Inc. 

Dupuis said her crews are working on safety features for when the theaters do reopen, and once the doors open, theaters will screen classic movies for free or at a very reduced rate for the first few weeks until movie studios release their summer blockbusters.

According to Dupuis, the first major release, scheduled for the summer, is “Tenet,” which will be released on July 17. Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake is set to come out on July 24.

Gyms were also allowed to open last Friday. 

According to the governor’s directive, in order to operate, gyms must maintain 50 percent capacity, maintain social distancing, regularly sanitize frequently touched areas and equipment and provide hand sanitizer.

Other gathering places, such as live-performance theaters, concert halls, bowling alleys and pools not in gyms, are to remain closed. “As Montana continues to aggressively manage the virus and we move forward with the plan to reopen, I am reminding Montanans that social distancing is vital to continue curbing the virus,” said Bullock. “All of us must do our part to stay open and stay on a path of decline in positive cases.”


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