DC-area wedding and event planners and other vendors are taking to social media and in some cases using the hashtag #SaveEvents to ask DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia and Maryland governors Ralph Northam and Larry Hogan to address what they see as a lack of updated guidance for local events. While indoor dining has reopened with limitations across the region—capped at 50 percent of capacity in Maryland and Virginia and 25 percent in DC—the caps on indoor and outdoor gatherings have not been updated since they were slashed at the end of last year. Currently, DC and Maryland gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors; Virginia’s restrictions cap all gatherings at 10. No updates or additional guidance on gatherings have been issued in 2021.
The DC Events Coalition, which formed March 2020 as a way for industry professionals to gather virtually and share information at the start of the pandemic, which has devastated the events business, submitted and virtually presented a “reopening proposal” to the DC Mayor’s office on February 10. The 11-page proposal outlined the current status of the local events industry, statistics on economic impact, notes on what the state of New York is doing, and their suggested two-phase events reopening plan, which requests events begin to reopen with limited capacity, testing, compliance permits, social distancing, and other measures in place by March 31.
“We have put the energy and research behind how to reopen safely, we have taken the time to share this with you, now we ask that you listen and share with us, your plan for reopening,” says a post from the Coalition, featuring a graphic that’s been shared by more that 250 accounts and gotten more than 10,000 views over just a fraction of those accounts surveyed.
One local wedding planning company’s post compared the permitted capacity of a local Panera to that of the current events cap in Virginia, highlighting that even with limited capacities, restaurants are able to host more patrons than would be permitted at a “gathering.” Another highlighted urgency: “Our events get planned months and years in advance. We need guidance and we need lead time to adequately plan.” Yet another expressed concerns about revenue going to other areas. “Events in Washington, DC bring in over $1 billion in estimated tax revenue annually to the city. Currently, DC, Maryland and Virginia are actively losing events to other states. . . . The events industry is prepared to re-open while following all COVID-19 compliance guidelines from the city.”
According to Jeannette Tavares, president of Evoke Design & Creative and a founding member of DC Event Coalition, the estimated annual tax revenue doesn’t take into account the thousands of Washington-area residents who rely on events for their livelihoods. “With nearly a year to prepare, the DC, Maryland, Virginia events community is ready to reopen and to do it safely,” she says, noting that many venues have adapted their facilities to accommodate reopening, and other vendors have a “Covid-compliance officer on staff.” On-site Covid testing companies, she says, as well as things like plexiglass dividers, temperature-checking stations, safe food preparation and service practices, masks, and more are available.
“With no information, a second wave of cancellations will come through, which means no work for the events industry–more people on unemployment, more businesses closing,” says Tavares. “This is also coupled with the clients, who will be losing thousands of dollars in pre-existing contracts if further cancellations are put into motion. We want our leaders and community to know that we’re fully prepared and capable to open safely. With Covid testing, social distancing, and smart logistics planning, we can keep each other, both vendors and attendees, safe.”
“Next week marks one year since over 12 million Americans—planners, caterers, florists, talent producers, technicians, engineers, suppliers, designers, manufacturers, and more stopped all work,” says the DC Events Coalition post. “We can’t wait any longer. Reopen safely, reopen soon.”
See more about what the events community is calling for in posts below.