Claremont’s Candlelight Pavilion dinner theater makes a comeback

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The Candlelight Pavilion’s (re)opening night audience snacks and sips ahead of the evening’s concert by Beatles tribute band Ticket to Ride. The venue has implemented a range of safety procedures, including extra distance, staggered seating times, and mandatory proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event. Photo by Matt Guilhem / KCRW.

Businesses on the road to reopening are traversing a complex path with rules about distancing, capacity limits, and masks. Now imagine having to deal with two separate rulebooks — one for restaurants and another for performance spaces. That’s what the Candlelight Pavilion dinner theater in Claremont is navigating.

The longtime family-friendly venue reopened at half capacity this month after a COVID-19 closure spanning a year and a half. They’re only allowed to be at 50% because they’ve implemented a strict policy of no entry without a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination. Without this policy, they would be limited to 15% capacity. 

Over the nearly 15 months it was closed, the family that runs the Candlelight wondered how it would survive, but it faced the virus head-on, and jumped through a lot of hoops to bring guests back inside.