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When theme parks closed around the country in mid-March, the initial announcements said they were only expected to be closed for about two weeks. Now, we sit here, six weeks after those closing with, it seemed, little idea as to when things might start back up again. However, we may now have our first indication of the wheels starting to turn towards reopening, as it's being reported that some locations inside the Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort are planning to reopen as soon as next week.
According to Attractions Magazine, staff at the Citywalk Starbucks, which is owned by Universal, have been told the location will be opening next week, and the employees of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville have been told the location plans to reopen May 11.
Universal has yet to confirm these reopenings, but Florida is moving toward lifting restrictions overall, and so it's very possible that this is all quite accurate. If a couple of the locations in the CityWalk are planning to reopen, it stands to reason that other, similar locations, are moving toward the same thing.
With the Universal CityWalk beginning to stir, the next obvious question is what will happen to the theme park itself. Odds are Universal Studios Orlando will be a bit slower to rev up. It's simply larger and mobilizing everybody is going to take a bit longer. In addition, managing the crowds at a Starbucks is going to be a lot easier than managing the crowds at the park. We still expect social distancing and other policies to be in effect, which could limit the capacity of the parks but they could also stay closed, even while parts of the CityWalk open, simply because managing those crowds could be too difficult.
There's no word if Walt Disney World will be taking similar steps as Universal. Disney World has the Disney Springs complex which is its equivalent to the Universal CityWalk. Disney has not announced the reopening of any part of the Disney theme park universe as of yet, although The Walt Disney Company has an earnings call scheduled for later today, so significant announcements could be planned for then.
On the one hand, it's understandable that the businesses would be looking to reopen as soon as is possible. At the same time, doing so too early runs the risk of causing a second wave of infection, and thus doing more harm than good. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. Some locations may begin to reopen, others could potentially stay closed. And even for those locations that do open up, if the customers are too weary about venturing out, there may not be the actual business to support being open.
We'll keep an eye on this and see if Universal confirms these reopenings are happening.