BY CHRISTINE LEE
The operators of a fitness center, theater and historical society in the county say they are happy to be open again.
On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf’s Dec. 12 order closing gyms, museums, theaters and other entertainment venues expired. The temporary restriction, imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus, also banned indoor dining at restaurants.
Lisa Gillespie, executive director of the Majestic Theater on North Centre Street in Pottsville, is hopeful about staying open.
“I’m being optimistic that we can be open at 50% capacity for the next few months,” she said Tuesday.
When the theater closed Dec. 12, rehearsals for the “Matilda: The Musical,” were underway. The show was originally slated for the end of the month but performances will now take place Feb. 19-21. Rehearsals for the musical resumed Monday and auditions for the March mystery will take place Thursday.
“We waited impatiently to see what the governor would do with allowing theaters to reopen,” Gillespie said. “As soon as I found out they could, I scheduled rehearsals.”
While grateful to continue operating, she said the pandemic hasn’t been easy. Gillespie has been working without pay since March, when it started, and estimates the theater has lost half its revenue since then. She hopes the pandemic won’t spell the end of theaters and will make the public realize the importance of the arts.
“We need something to look forward to,” she said. “We might be able to live without them, but it’s really boring.”
Meanwhile, members of Schuylkill Racquet Club & Fitness Center are also glad the facility off Route 61 in North Manheim Township reopened Monday, owner Renee DeLong said.
She said families and senior citizens find camaraderie at the facility, and some older members have told her they find it safer than the grocery store.
“We’re taking precautions and abiding the the CDC guidelines,” DeLong said. “We have a large group exercise room to allow for social distancing.”
She said the club’s employees stayed home during the three-week closure, with no one being laid off. However, DeLong added that she is still operating at half-capacity and some people have their memberships frozen. Those individuals, she said, aren’t coming to the facility as they are either caring for an older relative or are uncomfortable going out with a pre-existing condition. Their memberships will resume when the pandemic ends.
“Hopefully, a vaccine gets fully rolled out and enough people get herd immunity to contain it for things to get back to normal,” she said.
While the governor’s order expired Monday, the Orwigsburg Historical Society Museum in the former Friendship Fire Company on East Mifflin Street in the borough will resume its operations Thursday, President Jennifer Bowen said.
It is normally open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and by appointment.
She said that while she is excited to be reopening, having spent the past three weeks cleaning the museum, because it wasn’t easy to be closed.
“Especially over the holidays as people come home,” Bowen said. “We enjoy having people come.”
The closure has also been difficult as the society depends on members and visitors to support its operations. She said when people come in for a tour, they often buy things at the gift shop.
“There’s nothing like being in a museum in-person and seeing the items for yourself,” Bowen said.
With the museum run by volunteers, she added that it means regular routine is interrupted. The pandemic, she said, has made her more aware of cleaning and using hand sanitizer, things she said aren’t bad.
“It’s brought heightened awareness (to keeping things clean),” Bowen said.
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