"We’ve been preparing for reopening ever since they first shut us down," says the "GodFather of Skate," Rev. David Miles. Also known as "The Mayor of Golden Gate Park" for his frequent residency at the park's miniature rollerskating area along JFK Drive, Miles is telling everyone he can that the Church of 8 Wheels is back open as of Friday.
There was a small "preview" skate on Thursday morning, as KRON4 reports, with Miles and about a dozen others taking advantage of SF's first hours of "Yellow" tier reopening. The Reverend was wearing one of his big furry top hats and bedazzled trench coats, spinning around the former church at Fillmore and Oak for the TV cameras.
Miles had tried to get open last fall, when SF was briefly in the "Yellow" tier, but the roller disco didn't make it open before the city slid back into the "Red" and then "Purple" tier as COVID cases surged in November.
He also briefly reopened at 10% capacity in March, hoping that the roller rink could qualify as an indoor gym or fitness center, when SF was still in the "Red" zone again. But the City Attorney's Office shut that down, informing him that rollerskating falls under "Indoor Family Entertainment," which isn't allowed until a county reaches "Yellow" status.
San Francisco finally got there on Tuesday, and today is the day when the rules change once more.
The big change is that bars can now be open at 25% capacity indoors, without food service. Restaurants remain at 50% capacity indoors, but table can be seated up to eight people with no household limit. People can remove their masks when seated at outdoor bars and restaurants (which was mostly already happening), and gyms can open up to 50% capacity, up from 25%. Non-essential offices are also allowed to bring back workers at 50% capacity, but it's impossible to know what segment of SF's workplaces are going to take advantage of that.
The roller disco, meanwhile, gets to be open to 50% capacity, which would be 100 skaters per session. Miles had earlier planned to limit each session to 2 hours, and masks, of course, will be required.
Rev. Miles has been hosting Skatin’ Place in Golden Gate Park for decades, and founded Black Rock Roller Disco at Burning Man, which dates back to 1999. A true SF character, he took up residence at the abandoned Sacred Heart Church at 554 Fillmore Street in 2013, and hosted roller disco parties there several days and nights a week for seven years, until the pandemic shut everything down. Still, he's been out in the park all the time for the past year, and NBC's California Live visited him at the Skatin' Place last month to see the pandemic party that's been ongoing at the rink.
As he prepared for a far more paranoid public to enter the space last fall, Miles installed a new air filtration system at the church, and he tells KRON4 that he has "a whole sanitation system for the skates."
The place, of course, also has a sound system and sophisticated light projections all around, as seen in the video from 2018 below.
The Church of 8 Wheels reopens Friday. Formerly established hours had an all-ages skate session starting at 3 p.m. on Fridays, with 7 p.m. being the beginning of 18+ hours. It's not clear what the new hours will be — but check Facebook for updates.