New social gathering limits hurting local venues

New social gathering limits hurting local venues

POWHATAN, Va. (WWBT) - Ashley Welch says the best part of her job as the owner of Lakeside at Welch Estate Wedding Venue in Powhatan is making wedding ceremonies as stress-free as possible, but this year has been anything but.

“I know all of my couples personally, I’ve sat with them, I’ve heard their dreams for their day and to know that we’re going to have to have that conversation that it’s not going to happen in the manner that they originally planned is heartbreaking,” said Welch.

It’s been less than a month since social gatherings were limited from 250 people to just 25, but Thursday Governor Ralph Northam unveiled another slew of changes in response to growing statewide COVID-19 case numbers.

Among the changes, all social gatherings must be limited to 10 individuals. Social gatherings include, but are not limited to, parties, celebrations or other social events, regardless of whether they occur indoors or outdoors.

This does not apply to religious services, employment settings, or educational settings. Restaurants and retail stores are already governed by strict social distancing requirements and are not included in this limit.

The latest round of restrictions is slated to take place Monday, but Welch says it’s already impacting thinned out wedding schedule.

“We will probably be affected by another five events for the remainder of this year once everything ends by Jan. 31,” said Welch. “Prior to that, we moved an entire fully-booked spring and beginning of summer weddings.”

That’s in addition to more than 30 events shifted since the spring, some of which had to be changed with less than a week’s notice. But wedding venues aren’t the only industries being hit hard by the updated restrictions.

Eric Terry with the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association says the loss of revenue from large scale events or business meetings hosted at hotels has been astronomical.

“It’s really a large impact on the economy. It really is kind of a one-two punch,” said Terry. “I spoke to a hotel the other day who told me that they have only retained 15 percent of their staff, so that means they’ve laid off 85 percent of their staff. Think about that in terms of impact, and that was before December.”

Though Terry is hopeful a vaccine can turn some of those losses around, he says an industry that relies on crowd sizes like travel lodging and even weddings will have to continue being flexible.

“As an industry, we want to be part of the solution, we’re not trying to be an impediment to that,” said Terry.

“That’s what you have to be in this climate,” said Welch. “The best thing I can tell people is that we’re making sure we’re still enjoying our wedding, but we’re being safe.”

Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.