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‘Haven’t been in a long time:’ Drive-ins make a comeback during COVID-19 closures

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RUSKIN, Fla. -- With so many families stuck at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and Americans advised to practice social distancing, some Floridians are finding refuge at one of the last places in town still open -- the drive-in theater, where they're seeing more business than ever.

It was business as usual on Friday night, March 20 at the Ruskin Family Drive-in Theatre. Well, almost. There were gloves on the hands of ticket takers, and signs in place, warning patrons of some new rules.

"We're really excited to be here tonight," said Stacey Heflin, guest. "We haven't been to the drive-in in a long time, and we thought it would be a good way to get out and do something, but not be around a whole lot of people."

Cars lined the side of U.S. 41, with families itching for just a few hours out of the house.

"There's not very much else to do," said John Birchfield, guest. "We went to Apollo Beach last week, and now, that's closed."

As a precaution to keep people safe, owners restricted the concession to only 12 people at a time, with hand sanitizer and cleaning products on hand.

"Everyone is kind of stuck in their homes, so at least this gives them an out, to be able and come out, and mingle, and everything, and not have to worry about this COVID-19," said Shelia Ramseys, concessions attendant.

Owners noted business booming.

"I'm sorry to say, as far as business goes here, it's pretty good because like I say, people got a place to go that's relatively safe," said Ted Freiwald, owner.

Freiwald said he was grateful to be able to serve as an outlet for so many families.

"We've been meaning to go for a while and now we got a reason to go," said Birchfield.

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