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Event industry slowly picking up steam as Columbia set to lift more capacity restrictions


Event venues and hotels are slowly starting to heal from a halt in business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Columbia's new health order may help even more.

Boone County officials have removed occupancy limits for gatherings and group sizes will no longer be limited at bars and restaurants under a new health order that takes effect Wednesday.

The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services announced the order in a news release Monday. The old limit of 50% capacity for large gatherings held at businesses will go away under the new order, as will the 200-people maximum at entertainment venues.

The Director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau Amy Schneider said this is good news for the struggling event and hotel industry.

"Now it gives them more breathing room actually to be able to say you can have your meetings, these are the restrictions," Schneider said.

She doesn't think social distancing or masking requirements will go away anytime soon, which will still limit the number of people a venue can hold in a space. Schneider said even though it might cut off some of a venue's capacity, large events are still hesitant to come back.

"Meeting planners are still hesitant, we aren't seeing our big meeting coming back as quickly as we are other events," Schneider said. "By the time those big meetings do come in to play, it will be a wash."

A booking agent for the CBO Events Center at the Elks Lodge in Columbia Danielle Watts said her fingers are crossed this new order starts getting people to plan more events.

"For us right now, getting back to that normal size is wonderful because I'm not having to tell brides that you have to tell which of your family members can or can't come," Watts said.

Watts thinks it will be another year before event spaces see the number of events it was seeing before the pandemic.

"The phone has begun to ring, emails are starting to come in, events that we were kinda playing hopscotch with, skipping a little bit, have stopped doing that, and are actually on the calendar," Watts said.

She said many people are being cautious about events and still wanting to practice social distancing.

Event Specialist for Bleu Events Shana Trager works with the Atrium venue and Pressed bar downtown. She said events are still going to have hurdles to jump over with the social distancing and mask ordinance, but it's a good start.

"Just knowing that we can give our brides the reassurance that they can have all of the guests at their wedding is huge for them, because that's the hardest part, cutting back the guest list," Trager said.

While things have started the pick-up, and many venues are booked in the next coming months, Trager said the larger-scale events that bring in the most revenue are still not coming back yet.

"It will have a bit of an effect, but not as much of a direct impact in the events industry as we hope it would," Trager said.

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Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.


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