Discontent with Whitmer’s order headlines drive-in marquee

Southwest Michigan

BATAVIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — ‘The show must go on’ has been a motto owners of the Carpi Drive-in Theater near Coldwater have followed for all of their 56 years in business — or almost all.

“It was a Easter opening a few years ago. It was 80 degrees in Thursday and Good Friday hit with like 3 feet of snow,” Capri co-owner Susan Magocs said, recalling a hiccup in the season premiere.

But it wasn’t Mother Nature that kept the Capri screen dark this year. It was coronavirus and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order shutting down entertainment venues and theaters, designed to keep the spread of the virus in check.

The parking lot at Capri is empty and the sound system silent, but the marquee speaks volumes about the owners’ frustration.

“Last Monday, I decide, ‘Oh my gosh, do I sit here and just do nothing, or do I try to do something?'” Magocs said.

It took some word economy since the old marquee will only hold so many letters: “Want to open,” it reads. “Can’t. Call Gov. Thanks.”

She decided to get customers involved after getting a generic response from the governor’s office to her questions.

“It’s just them pleading my case, pleading the drive-in case to the governor,” Magocs said. “And I would suspect there are a lot of small businesses that feel the same way we do.”

She said she understood the intent of the original executive order that closed theaters. But as we learn more about the virus, she has learned more about what she needs to do to prevent the spread, especially when moviegoers are sitting in their cars and, for the most part, away from everyone else.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘I can take care of my customers,'” Magocs said.

Under her new plan, drive-in employees would mask up. She hired a service to deliver food from the concession stand directly to customers, eliminating another need for them to exit their vehicles.

“Which I think even long-term is a great idea because if it’s the best part of the movie, you probably don’t want to get out of your car,” Magocs said.

She has also been in contact with her local health department about other best practices.

The plan would not set limits on the number of people in vehicles.

“If you’re in the car, I would have to assume that you feel pretty safe that you got in that car together,” Magocs said.

“I think right now, we’ve got to start thinking about people’s mental health,” she continued. “You can’t keep people locked in. You know, we’ve been doing this now for what, about two months?”

That’s not her only worry. Her in-laws bought the Capri in 1964 and it’s been in the family ever since, but Magocs said she’s not sure how long she and her husband will hold onto it. At this point, it may become as much a personal decision as it is a business one.

“My husband, we’ve done it for so many years, he goes, ‘Can I take that?'” Magocs recalled a recent conversation. “Am I going to jeopardize the rest of our lives? Or do we just cut out now, sell and get out? Get out while we can.”

Whitmer’s office did not reply to News 8’s request for comment by early Monday evening.

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