Caterers, Central Pa Venues: Governor Wolf’s New Boundaries Still Make Planning Weddings and Concerts Difficult
Unfortunately, it’s too early to put on your dancing shoes for a concert. Besides, anyone planning a big corporate event, fundraiser, or wedding may want to be flexible.
Effective Today, Governor Tom Wolf Relaxed COVID-19 Mitigation Restrictions targeting indoor and outdoor public gatherings such as concerts, sporting events and conventions. The new rules still limit venues well below their full capacity: 15% occupancy for indoor events and 20% occupancy for outdoor events.
While this is good news, those who plan events, an industry that spans caterers to hotels and concert halls, say the increases are barely making a dent. They point out that limits make planning difficult and don’t always make financial sense.
“A lot of what we do draws large crowds and 15% of the capacity doesn’t allow us to host events,” said Anna Vazquez, Marketing Director for XL Live in Harrisburg. “Basically we can’t open until it’s 50%. “
The venue has a capacity of approximately 1,200 people and has been closed since March 2020. It continues to reschedule its programming of live events and concerts. Vazquez said they are waiting and hoping for some relief by the summer.
Under Wolf’s Revision, indoor events and gatherings are limited to 15% of maximum occupancy, regardless of site size. Until now, indoor events have been limited to 10% of a facility’s maximum occupancy, with an absolute cap of 500.
Outdoor events and gatherings are limited to 20% of maximum occupancy regardless of site size, subject to the same distancing and masking requirements. Events are subject to distancing requirements which would require individual groups in attendance to be at least six feet apart from other groups in attendance. Face masks would also still be required.
In addition, the governor also lifted orders requiring proof of COVID-19 testing and / or quarantines for Pennsylvanians returning from out-of-state travel.
John Longstreet, President and CEO of Pennsylvania Restaurant and Accommodation Association, Welcomed the relaxation of travel measures but stressed that the 15% cap for indoor events is not that much.
“We really needed larger capacity private events. We wanted to go back to the original 50% green phase, so weddings and all the other things that are happening around the corner can send out their invitations, ”he said.
The wedding industry has been hit hard as couples postpone and cancel scheduled ceremonies.
Steve Sanchez, President of the JDK Group Catering & Events in Camp Hill, said they had witnessed a recent increase in cancellations of events scheduled from April to June, as no prior information was released on the number of guests. He emphasized how much advance notice is required when planning events such as weddings.
Sanchez noted 15% occupancy translates to just 60 guests in some larger indoor facilities.
“This will result in an additional three months of cancellations and lost jobs for our team members if these occupancy limits do not increase by the end of March,” Sanchez said.
Hilton Harrisburg chief executive Joe Massaro said a long-term perspective would help an industry that works ahead. The Hilton hosts weddings, nonprofit events, and conventions.
While the new numbers may help some planning events, he said most groups are reluctant to plan.
“People are very hesitant to book a wedding or convention of 150 to 200 people in the fall because there is no indication when the next move will take place or if they will be allowed to have it,” Massaro said.
Operators of concert halls such as the Hersheypark Stadium and the Giant Center in the Township of Derry are also being cautious. Some events such as The Original Harlem Globetrotters have been postponed, while For King & Country is still scheduled to occur on May 21 at the Giant Center.
“Our operations team is currently evaluating the impact of today’s announcement on our future outdoor and indoor events,” said Quinn Bryner, spokesperson for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company. “The capacity will be carefully monitored in accordance with all state guidelines.”
She stressed that before any site reopens, information about security improvements will be released. In addition, Bryner said that Hersheypark does not fall under recent revisions and that capacity limits and security measures will remain unchanged.
Even small establishments like The Abbey Bar, which is part of Appalachian Brewing Co. in Harrisburg, aren’t swayed by the news that Wolf is reopening, said Artie Tafoya, director of operations.
“15% does nothing for us. A 26-person concert including the band wouldn’t be very fun, ”Tafoya said.