Events Industry Fears Collapse Without Government Assistance

Event planners rally
Photo credit Marla Diamond/WCBS 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — From the Javits Center to hotel ballrooms, venues big and small remain closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, putting the special events industry on hold indefinitely.

On Friday, small business owners and event workers rallied in Times Square, saying they cannot survive without more unemployment benefits and loans from Washington.

Duffy Square took on the look of a big party, with a stage and empty tables and chairs, but this was not a celebration. Instead of people in the seats, there were signs reading "Extend pandemic unemployment assistance" and "Update the payroll protection program."

"We have 48 tables here at the crossroads of the world in Times Square. Each table represents 250,000 unemployed workers in the live event industry. That equals 12 million people," said Jaclyn Bernstein, founder of Live Event Coalition of New York and New Jersey. "The amount of layoffs in our end of the industry has just been decimating and the scary part is we're all about small businesses, so we're very concerned that businesses are just not going to come back."

One of those businesses is run by event designer Bob Conti. 

"I've been in business for 30 years," Conti said. "Overnight it destroyed my business. There's absolutely no income coming in."

Dejuan Stroud who owns an event design and decor business in New York said there needs to be an extension of federal assistance to prevent the industry from collapse.

"And by the way we're asking for it in the way of loans, not a handout. Please don't use the word bailout," Stroud said. "We have been put in this position, not by our meaning, please give us a helping hand and we'll make it."

Event planners don't anticipate getting back to business until at least the spring of 2021.

There's nothing planned for months at the Plaza Hotel's grand ballroom.

"The weddings, the not--for-profit galas, the corporate events, we're not going any of those right now so it's really a struggle and even when we do come they're going to be reduced counts," said catering director Michael Warren. 

"Where are these people going to get jobs? There's millions of people in the event industry that are unemployed right now," said Allan Kurtz, the managing director of Gotham Hall and Ziegfeld Ballroom. 

The organizers of the rally say they're not asking for venues to reopen, but for federal assistance while they remain closed.

Stay informed, stay connected — follow WCBS 880 on Facebook and TwitterDownload the RADIO.COM app + favorite WCBS 880 for breaking news, traffic and weather alerts.