Pandemic plan B: Lexington bar has turned to movie classics on a giant outdoor screen

By Matt Wickstrom,

The Burl
People prepare for an outdoor screening of “Almost Famous” at The Burl in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. The Burl is hosting free outdoor movie nights every Thursday throughout October with a Halloween theme. Alex Slitz ASLITZ@HERALD-LEADER.COM

LEXINGTON, Ky. — With both movie theatres and live music venues taking a big financial hit during the pandemic, one Lexington club has found success in recent weeks with a run of free movie nights set in it’s socially distanced parking lot.

Forced into adapting on the fly, The Burl began hosting free movies, for which they secured a one-time license, on Thursday nights.

Beginning Aug. 27 with “The Goonies,” the movies have becomea way to attract patrons to their Distillery District campus during the week and not just on the weekends for live music performances, which returned on July 18 during a celebration of the venue’s four-year anniversary.

“Since transitioning to events in our parking lot, we’ve had a very successful run of concerts, leading us to brainstorming for other ways to keep people outside during the week,” said Burl co-owner Cannon Armstrong. “Movies came to mind because not many people are able to go to traditional theaters right now, if at all, due to restrictions surrounding the pandemic.”

In addition to “The Goonies,” other movies shown thus far have included “Sixteen Candles,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Labyrinth” and “Almost Famous.” According to Armstrong, The Burl will go with a run of Halloween-themed movies in October starting with “Hocus Pocus” (Oct. 1) followed by “Get Out” (Oct. 8), “Scream” (Oct. 15) and “Beetlejuice” (Oct. 22).

Bringing the movies to life is a 20-foot inflatable movie screen sitting in front of a newly installed stage extension off of The Burl’s porch, which faces out into the parking lot and 50 tables seating up to six people each that are nestled between the complex’s music venue and arcade.

Following social distancing protocols and guidelines put forth by Gov. Andy Beshear, The Burl has each table separated by 12 feet and requires everyone in attendance for events to wear a mask unless they’re at their table. The venue has also set up outdoor restrooms that are cleaned before and after every show in addition to their indoor facilities and have recently begun to offer food and drink orders from their on-campus food partner Kismet.

Orders are placed from your table by using QR code technology since customers and patrons are no longer permitted to congregate around a bar to order.

Despite all of the curveballs that have been and continue to be thrown their way due to COVID-19, The Burl has found success with outdoor concerts, movie and trivia nights, held every Wednesday evening.

Armstrong said that each movie night has had near-capacity turnouts, and the venue actually brought out more tables during showings of “The Goonies” and “Labyrinth.” Armstrong hopes that the momentum behind The Burl’s outdoor concerts and movies will continue but he anticipates a tough winter ahead when they likely won’t be able to produce any events from their campus.

“The winter is going to be hard for us,” said Armstrong. “We’ve been thrilled with the response to our outdoor events so far and hope the community continues their support through our upcoming slate of concerts and movies in October and beyond as long as weather permits.”

This story was originally publishing in the Lexington Herald-Leader and

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