Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific will reopen to the public Sunday, June 14 — exactly three months after it was closed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Aquarium members get to visit first, on Friday and Saturday, with a preview of the new summer exhibit, "Coral Reefs: Nature's Underwater Cities. Everyone who wants to visit, member or not, will have to have a reservation — Health Department guidelines limit visitors to 25% of capacity.
"The aquarium has never been as clean as it is now," President and CEO Jerry Schubel said Thursday. "We've been cleaning and putting the finishing touches on the big new exhibit, so we'll be ready."
In mid-March, health agencies from the state down to the city ordered any place where people congregated to close in order to stop or slow the spread of the coronavirus. Those restrictions have gradually eased over the last couple of weeks.
The aquarium was classified as a Stage Three venue, along with fitness centers, hotels, museums, day camps and swimming pools. Following guidance from the state and Los Angeles County, Long Beach officials announced the new policy Wednesday.
An aquarium visit in June will be significantly different than one in early March. To start, an advance reservation for a specific time will be required (at aquariumofpacific.org). Once at the aquarium, traffic flow — people walking from one exhibit to another — will be managed with an eye toward social distancing. In specific parts of the complex, there will be floor signs to designate a 6-foot separation.
Everyone age 2 or older will be required to wear a face covering, and there will be lots of hand sanitizing stations throughout the aquarium. Workers will be cleaning touched surfaces frequently and clear partitions have been installed in places where staff members interact with the public frequently.
"I think we will create a good experience for our visitors … and a safe one," Schubel said.
With maximum attendance at 25% of capacity, the aquarium will not be nearly as crowded as in the past.
"From a visitor's perspective, that's great," Schubel said. "For us, not so much."
The nonprofit aquarium earns about 75% of its revenue from ticket sales, concessions and its gift shop. For the last three months, that has dropped to zero. But fixed costs, from feeding the fish to maintaining water quality remain high. Without any visitors, losses per week range from $650,000 to $1 million, depending the time of year, Schubel said.
"If things go well, and we can increase attendance steadily, we'll still be able to meet our (financial) commitments," Schubel said.
The aquarium opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and stays open to 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $34.95 adult (12+), $29.95 senior (65+), $24,95 child, and free to children younger than 3 and aquarium members. For more, go to aquariumofpacific.org.