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NPR Coronavirus Updates

After A Year Of Mostly Cancellations, Bookings Are Back For Many Event Venues


As some states begin relaxing pandemic restrictions on gatherings, many people are eager to reschedule weddings, celebrations and memorials. Craig LeMoult of member station GBH reports that's welcome news for function halls and other event-related businesses, even as they continue to navigate a new normal.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: If you're thinking you might start planning that wedding now that COVID restrictions are starting to lift, you might want to consider a Tuesday. That's right - a Tuesday.

MIKE GALLANT: Midweek celebrations do work. They do happen.

LEMOULT: That's Mike Gallant, who owns Oceanview of Nahant, an event venue on Massachusetts's North Shore. He says the phone's been ringing like crazy since Massachusetts's governor announced indoor events with a hundred people could begin starting Monday.

GALLANT: Now that we're starting to see, nationwide, some of the guidance and regulations starting to loosen, these people, you know, are starting to say, hey, I feel comfortable planning now.

LEMOULT: The relaxing of restrictions here comes as new COVID cases level off in the state and the vaccination effort picks up. And some residents, like Tricia Henderson, can't wait to hold a wedding reception.

TRICIA HENDERSON: Dump the whole thing out.

LEMOULT: Henderson dumps sea glass on a table at Oceanview of Nahant, so she can pick a napkin color that matches it. She says she doesn't have enough centerpieces because they had to increase the number of tables to meet the governor's new COVID regulations.

HENDERSON: God bless him for trying, and I appreciate everything he's done. But it's really inconvenient to have to have 17 tables with six people at it.

LEMOULT: Even so, she's thrilled to actually be having her wedding. She's already had to postpone twice.

HENDERSON: So here's my invitation. And I did put on my invitation, COVID guidelines will be adhered to, so know your COVID guidelines. I mean, we all know what's going on in Massachusetts. We all know that we have to wear masks still.

LEMOULT: Even on the dance floor.

PAUL DELORENZO: So this is our harbor-view ballroom.

LEMOULT: Paul DeLorenzo is general manager at Danversport, an event venue with this massive room in Danvers, Mass.

DELORENZO: It's 10,000 square feet, so it's 100 by 100.

LEMOULT: Six hundred people can fit in here for dinner. But until now, the pandemic rules said he could only seat 10.

DELORENZO: And that, to me, is the crazy - I just, like, went, wow, that hurts.

LEMOULT: Especially since restaurants have been open with some restrictions for months. The governor's rationale for that was you don't generally go around hugging strangers at other tables at a restaurant. DeLorenzo is thrilled to be hosting events again, especially after the bottom dropped out.

DELORENZO: I had to furlough 220 employees, and then we basically lost 85% of our business in 2020.

LEMOULT: The Wedding Report tracks the industry and says the amount spent on weddings in the U.S. was cut in half last year. It's not just the venues that have been hurting. Olive Chase owns The Casual Gourmet, a catering company on Cape Cod, and says the last year has been brutal for companies like hers and everyone else in the industry.

OLIVE CHASE: Florists, DJs, bands, video people, hair and makeup artists, sole proprietors who do not have the kind of wherewithal to just lose an entire year's revenue - and not only lose the revenue, but for many of them, they had taken large deposits that people wanted back.

LEMOULT: While she's excited to be booking small weddings again, she says before the pandemic, a big portion of her business came from charities.

CHASE: All of those galas that we do and fundraisers, last year, canceled. And then they started doing them virtually.

LEMOULT: She's hoping, eventually, that events, large and small, will move away from being virtual and transition back to being in-person. For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult in Boston.