'There’s a double standard there': Manitoba Halloween attraction questions provincial gathering size limits

Heebie Jeebies attraction "The Junkyard", Sept. 7, 2021 (Zachary Kitchen, CTV News)

As new provincial public health orders limiting outdoor gatherings to 500 people go into effect Tuesday, one Manitoba attraction is worried about an uneven playing field.

Heebie Jeebies, a popular Halloween event, is asking the province for some leniency on the gathering rule as other events and venues have been given more leeway.

"This week, fully vaccinated Manitobans can attend a CFL game, they can attend an NHL game, no physical distancing going on,” said Tim Muys, president and co-owner of Heebie Jeebies.

“They don’t have to follow the same rules. What makes us so different, what makes ours such a higher risk? It doesn’t add up. There’s a double standard there.”

Heebie Jeebies is in its fourth year, operating at cost last year because of existing restrictions on gathering sizes. With capacity limits in place again this year, Muys said attendance will have to be reduced affecting his bottom line and a possible repeat of 2020.

The event features both indoor and outdoor activities, ranging from corn mazes and bonfires to photo ops in zombie bunkers.

Muys said his attraction follows all provincial COVID-19 guidelines and the very nature of the event keeps people physically distanced. Cohorts entering the mazes are spaced 40 feet apart while entrance into the attraction is limited to fully vaccinated people.

“We’re asking (the province) to take another look at it. Figure it out and tell us more accurately what category we fall into because we seem to be spread out over several different categories. We don’t seem to fit anywhere and they seem to have forgotten us,” said Muys.

The new gathering limits will also impact weddings and funerals. Proof of vaccination will be required if those events are being held at licenced venues.

People attending museums and galleries will also need to show vaccination proof.

Food courts will be subject to the same rules as restaurants.

While the outdoor gathering limit has dropped from 1,500 to 500 people, there is no change to indoor gathering limits.

“It comes back to the fundamental question, if fully vaccinated Manitobans are safer then why are we limiting what can and can’t do?” said Muys. “There are different rules for different venues for fully vaccinated Manitobans and it doesn’t add up.”