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No more wedding bells at Reno’s last drive-thru chapel

March 3, 2018

This Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 shows the Chapel of the Bells on West Fourth Street in Reno, Nev. The last drive-thru wedding chapel which George Flint opened in 1962, closed its doors for good on Wednesday. (Mike Higdon/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The last drive-thru wedding chapel in Reno has heard its final vows.

The Chapel of the Bells, which George Flint opened in 1962, closed its doors for good on Wednesday, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported .

His daughter, Margaret Flint, shepherded in the closing by hosting the chapel’s last two weddings.

Margaret Flint said times have changed. The chapel does not have the same appeal as it once had.

“I don’t think there’s a novelty for the stereotypical chapel wedding anymore,” Margaret Flint said. “My niece told me people are afraid to look tacky, so I guess that means we’re tacky now.”

The wedding industry in western Nevada has tanked over the past few decades. It peaked in 1978 with Washoe County issuing more than 36,000 marriage licenses. Last year, the county issued fewer than 8,000.

“I think we had a naivete about us, where we thought (the wedding) industry would continue to survive regardless,” George Flint said. “As it turns out that hasn’t been the case.”

George Flint, 83, attributed the state’s declining wedding industry to changes in state laws across the country. Other states have liberalized their marriage laws. Nevada is no longer the only destination for certain weddings.

The neighborhood surrounding the chapel on Fourth Street has also seen better days. The area is riddled with crime and it doesn’t attract tourists anymore, Margaret Flint said.

Jacobs Entertainment purchased the chapel last year as part a plan to redevelop the neighborhood into the Fountain District. It also bought a motel neighboring the chapel that has been torn down. The company plans to construct a retail and housing development at the shared location.

George Flint was given until April 2019 to stay open, but he decided it was better to close early.

“We asked if we could set up some chairs across the street and drink margaritas while the chapel comes down,” Margaret Flint said. “But the closer it comes, the more we realized this was our childhood and we don’t want to watch it come down anymore.”

Margaret Flint said she plans to sell most of the chapel’s decorations at an antique store. She also plans to hold an estate sale in a few months.

“Once it’s time, it’s just time,” she said. “I’m glad someone is doing something innovative with this area though.”

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

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