Most of the revenue lost during pandemic won’t be recouped, say those involved in the events’ industry
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Even during the height of the pandemic, restaurants could still offer to-go service.
Grocery stores could provide curbside service, delivery or limit foot traffic.
Churches could stream services online.
But event industry businesses shut down without many alternative means of doing business.
Holiday Inn in Liverpool usually receives 60% of its income through its conference center, hosting numerous events and meetings throughout the year.
“When we host statewide conventions, we get a lot of business from that,” said Jim Stocker, general manager. “When coronavirus hit, we elected to shut down and consolidated all our reservations to our sister hotel right behind us.”
Though that has helped Holiday Inn, booking 40 rooms is a sizable drop from booking 200. But Stocker remains hopeful that the facility will reopen soon. That optimism spurred a major deep-cleaning to the entire facility and the addition installation of sanitizing stations that will help safeguard employees and guests.
“We’re keeping everyone employed,” Stocker said. “Now we have to get the economy going. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
Upon reopening, the facility’s meeting space will function differently. Stocker said that meeting tables will be set up with chairs spaced more widely and the rooms will have a lower maximum capacity to enable social distancing. That may limit the size of some of the large events held at Holiday Inn, he said.
At Harbour Hall in Oswego, co-owner Brian Parkers has the capacity to host sit-down weddings and events of up to 120 at tables and more guests at events not requiring tables and chairs.
“We had to cancel all our events through the quarantine and then the quarantine continued so those events canceled, too,” Parkers said. “We’ve been working with our customer base and refunding their deposits. I know a lot of venues that have not been refunding their deposits. Everyone has been really understanding. It’s a really tough time.”
So far, couples have been marrying via the justice of the peace and trying to book wedding celebrations for next year. Parkers noted that their budgets are lower because some have lost their jobs or have experienced reduced hours at work. In addition to the lost bookings, the downscaled events will also hurt Harbour Hall. Still, he remains hopeful about Harbour Hall.
“I think we’ll have a massive influx as soon as things open up,” he said. “Most venues are booked years in advance and we have openings next year.” But he said that some of the revenue won’t be recovered. A high school graduation party, for example, takes place before or right after graduation, not a year later.
Venues without openings in 2021 won’t be able to accommodate clients who want to postpone their events.
Parkers also rents part of his building to a coffee shop, The Coffee Connection. The shop’s owner, Paul Fauler, decided to close during the quarantine since he doesn’t have a drive-through window and the nature of his shop is for people to linger awhile and enjoy their cup of coffee.
Wedding photographers have also struggled during the pandemic. Just as Dava Needle, owner of AlterImage Fine Art Wedding Photography in Syracuse. Normally, she would be photographing weddings and offering photo booth services for large events. Instead of working in what’s normally her busy season, she’s been receiving many postponements. Like Harbour Hall, those delayed bookings mean lost revenue through August.
“It’s a wait-and-see scenario,” Needle said. “I’ve spoken with other wedding vendors in different aspects and we’re all waiting to see how the phases go to see if events can go ahead. I haven’t been able to do anything.”
She’s been in business for 20 years and hopes to wait out the shut-down and then continue photographing weddings. Needle has no employees, so meeting payroll isn’t a concern. But any bookings she delays means lost income since that future date could have gone to a different client.
“Hopefully, it will be only a matter of months,” she said. “If it doesn’t restart soon enough, I’ll have to figure out something. In life, it’s a season and this is a bad season. We’ll weather through it the best we can and hopefully that good season is right around the corner. I’m trying to keep a positive attitude. My heart goes out to anyone planning a wedding this year.”