businessnewsWednesday, November 23, 2011

Silent for days, the Grand Theatre comes clean on speculation it was down-playing the seriousness of bed bugs. By Heather Miller

As of Nov. 14, The Grand Theatres in Lafayette are bed bug-free and the process by which a movie theater is treated for the creatures has been thoroughly outlined by a company executive. But when reports of bed bugs at The Grand 16 on Johnston Street surfaced recently, that same company executive waited five days to give a statement that put the skin-crawling issue to rest.

Ron Krueger, chief operating officer for Southern Theatres LLC, the company that owns and operates The Grand Theatres, did not initially confirm nor deny a tip this news organization received concerning an ongoing problem with bed bugs at The Grand 16 on Johnston Street. When asked Nov. 10 about the potential pest problem, he asserted that “we’re being proactive on it” and “this isn’t a big issue.”

Bed bugs, the blood-sucking insects known for their night-time attacks, rapid spreading and resilience to pest control treatments, have re-emerged across the country in recent years, though major infestations like those experienced in larger cities haven’t been reported in Acadiana.

“We treat it like any pest that can come into a place of public assembly,” Krueger said on Nov. 10.

“Things are pretty quiet on our front,” Krueger continued. “We’re being proactive on it and have been for a while. We constantly survey and if there is an issue we do treat.”

A recent article from MedicineNet.com explains that bed bugs can live in almost any type of furniture, clothing or bedding. They’re also known to hide inside of walls and spread by crawling.

Abbeville-based Eagle Pest Control owner Tony Porter says bed bugs are nocturnal and anti-social creatures that are expensive and hard to treat.

“It’s very intrusive,” Porter says. “Everything has to be taken apart. They stay in cracks and crevices. They can move very easily.”

Movie theaters in Times Square made headlines in August 2010 when they, too, fell victim to the infiltration of bed bugs in New York City. According to a report from CBS News, an AMC Entertainment spokesman said one theater discovered the bed bugs due to a customer complaint, after which “we immediately closed [the theater]” until it was treated.

The theater in New York also removed all seats in every auditorium and replaced them with new ones, CBS reports.

Asked whether Southern Theatres would close The Grand 16 on Johnston if the problem persisted, Krueger said on Nov. 10 that “we haven’t seen the need to do that.”

“If you have a visitor to your house that has a bed bug, then you’re going to have to address it and fix it,” Krueger said. “Then if you have another visitor show up you have to treat it again. To characterize it as a consistent problem isn’t accurate. We’ve got a number of guests visiting the theater on a regular basis. It’s treating pests like any other pest control. This isn’t a big issue.”

Five days later, however, Krueger submitted a lengthy comment under this news organization’s online bed bugs article, informing readers that “based upon a thorough and certified inspection [Nov. 14], there are no bed bugs in the Grand Theatres in Lafayette.”

Krueger said in that comment, posted late in the afternoon on Nov. 14, that the company completed an inspection four weeks before and six months prior to that as well. The rest of his statement is reprinted here, in its entirety:

“We currently conduct weekly inspections by management and now quarterly inspections by a certified bed bug sniffing dog. Again, that dog and his handler found no bed bugs in the theatre today.

Providing a clean and enjoyable movie-going environment is of paramount importance to The Grand Theatres. There appears to be some misinformation and speculation out there and we would like to set the record straight. We are way ahead of the curve in proactively treating all potential pests including bed bugs. We have worked with the Louisiana Department of Health on this issue and they too have indicated we are addressing this issue in a very proactive manner.

As has been our practice, should we find a problematic seat, it is removed in addition to three seats in every direction from that seat. We then replace those seats with clean seats. The problem seats are then contained and heated to over 120 degrees. This is the only proven non chemical way we have found to eradicate the bugs.

We are in the process of arranging yet another return visit by our dog handler this week and will advise the press and the health department to see our processes first hand and to reassure our guests that we have and will continue to address any concerns of bed bugs at The Grand Theatre.

Any place of public assembly is at risk be it a restaurant, hotel, rest home, convention center or a theatre. It’s how you stay ahead of the situation that makes the difference in providing a clean environment for your guests. We feel we are making that difference.
Again, we take providing a clean and enjoyable movie-going environment seriously for our guests. Until the government permits a chemical that can pretreat areas for these bugs, all places of public assembly are at risk. At the Grand Theatre, we are proactively inspecting and treating all of our auditoriums to constantly stay vigilant for and eliminate the pest’s presence in our theatres.”

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