Economic reopening: Lefty’s new drive-in movie theater set to open Monday night

Workers set up Lefty’s Alley & Eats new drive-in theater, designed to provide a safer movie-going experience in the time of COVID-19. Delaware State News/Katie Redefer

LEWES — Monday night, the parking lot adjacent to Lefty’s Alley and Eats will travel back in time to allow customers to experience the business’s new nostalgic drive-in movie theater, complete with a lineup of 1970 and 80s blockbusters and servers on roller skates.

This will mark Lefty’s first day open since closing due to COVID-19 in March. The opening at 36450 Plaza Road, Lewes, will come with a plethora of changes, including the drive-in theater but also several new menu items, the opening of a vineyard-inspired outdoor patio, and the addition of a new executive chef and general manager.

DJ Hill, co-owner of Lefty’s, said the extended closure from the COVID-19 pandemic gave him time to think about innovative changes he could bring to the restaurant, something he wasn’t as focused on before the virus hit Delaware.

“This closure was actually one of the best things that happened to Lefty’s,” Mr. Hill said. “We took the time to focus our attention inward, dust off our mission statement, and find a way to get back to our brand and service culture. When you are in the daily grind of operations, you are constantly in a state of survival mode and creativity gets pushed aside.”

Mr. Hill also cited the establishment hitting a three-year plateau since first opening, something he strived to fix with the new additions.

“This time afforded us the opportunity to reboot and define how we wanted to operate for the next several years,” he said.

Although Mr. Hill reiterated that the additions are a much-welcomed change, the financial hardships of remaining closed well into Phase Two of Delaware’s rolling reopening certainly took a toll on the business.

“The financial side [of COVID-19] was devastating and it will still have challenges moving forward. Our entire business model is founded on social interaction so until people are completely comfortable returning to life as we used to know it, the financial impact will continue indefinitely,” Mr. Hill said.

Lefty’s will comply with state health regulations upon today’s opening, and owners had to submit detailed plans to the state in order to get approval for reopening the bowling lanes, per the state’s guidelines. That makes the Lewes-area business the first bowling alley to open in the state, according to co-owner DJ Hill. Delaware State News/Katie Redefer

Lefty’s will comply with state health regulations upon today’s opening, and owners had to submit detailed plans to the state in order to get approval for reopening the bowling lanes, per the state’s guidelines. That makes the Lewes-area business the first bowling alley to open in the state, according to Mr. Hill.

Although the business was able to submit and enact plans for the bowling lanes, Lefty’s arcade and laser tag will remain closed.

The drive-in theater is not only a much-needed blast from the past, but also provides a significantly safer movie-going experience when compared to traditional movie theaters existing in the time of COVID-19.

“I think the community will benefit from the drive-in theater merely by providing a safe space for people to have a night out. If you don’t leave your car, you can completely mitigate all risk,” Mr. Hill said. “The buzz so far on the drive-in is at a level that we have never experienced before at Lefty’s on any other attraction or event in the past. It’s been a little surprising, quite honestly.”

Along with hiring an executive chef, Paige van den Burg, Lefty’s also hired general manager Gary Foley to help develop new ways for the restaurant to further its goal of providing a unique dining experience. Mr. Hill attributed the idea of a drive-in theater to Mr. Foley, who initially noticed the potential the parking lot had for a drive-in. Mr. Hill said as long as he could hire servers on roller skates, he was supportive of the idea.

The new 40-seat patio also will open to customers today, adorned with string lights and marble-top booths. Submitted photo

The new 40-seat patio also will open to customers today, adorned with string lights and marble-top booths.

Lefty’s is excited to promote its new menu, crafted by Ms. Van den Burg, who previously worked in the competitive New York City restaurant scene. One of Ms. Van den Burg’s first jobs in a kitchen was making omelets at the Rehoboth Beach Bellmoor Inn and Spa, according to Mr. Hill. She later ended up at the Union Station Café, named as one of the top eight restaurants in the Union Square area in 2017 by Travel and Leisure Magazine, before she came to work at Lefty’s.

Ms. Van den Burg created new menu items such as shrimp spaetzle, a kale Caesar salad, crab wontons, and from their dessert menu, a brownie sundae, among other items. Customers can order items off this menu inside at restaurant seating, or to be directly delivered to their car at the drive-in theater by trained roller-skating servers.

Customers can buy tickets for drive-in screenings, priced at $25 per car, up to a week in advance on Lefty’s website, iloveleftys.com, for viewings that include Dirty Dancing (1987), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), along with other titles.

The drive-in theater will start by allowing 31 cars per showing, but plans to double that number when the state lifts capacity restrictions. The first screening of Rocky (1976) tonight at 9 p.m. is already sold out.

Mr. Hill also announced the drive-in theater would be screening performances from Rehoboth Beach’s Clear Space Theatre Company every Sunday starting in July as a way of raising money for the theatre company, which has been hit by COVID-19 restrictions.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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