The events industry is excited about the reopening of step 3, but still faces challenges

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Local companies in the events industry are happy that Ontario will soon move to Step 3 of its plan to reopen the pandemic, but it’s not a completely smooth transition.

The province announced on Friday that it would move to Step 3 on July 16, five days ahead of schedule.

The new guidelines allow for larger religious services and other ceremonies such as weddings and funerals with physical distancing measures.

Indoor social gatherings and events can hold up to 25 people indoors, while outdoor social gatherings and events can accommodate up to 100 people with some exceptions.

Meeting and event spaces can open at half capacity or allow 1,000 people indoors, whichever is less, under other restrictions. Outside, the capacity increases to 75 percent or 5,000 people.

“We have waited a long time and so have my brides and grooms,” said Tony Zacconi, owner of the Sala San Marco Event Center.

“People have rebooked appointments two or three times and so on. That’s really very encouraging.”

Zacconi was able to flip and run a restaurant during most of the pandemic but still had to lay off staff. He estimates his business lost at least half a million dollars and also says he feels bad about customers and guests.

“You come to [me] say, ‘Hey Tony, what’s going to happen? Are we going to make it? ‘ And I have no answer for her, “said Zacconi.

Tables distributed in the Sala San Marco event center. (CBC)

Changing rules confusing

With the phones ringing now from people trying to book events, Zacconi said it was difficult to find employees as his former employees have moved to other jobs.

At Bean Town Receptions in Plantagenet, Ontario, owner Genevieve Desjardins said there was pressure to interpret all new rules correctly and quickly.

Desjardins said she called various agencies, including the local health unit and her community’s bylaws, and kept getting different answers.

“We just want to be sure. We don’t want to be the industry causing another outbreak, ”Desjardins said.

When it comes to rebuilding the local tourism industry, step 3 is good news, but “only part of the story,” said Catherine Callary, vice president, destination development, Ottawa Tourism.

“That doesn’t mean we are still on target for tourism recovery in Ottawa,” Callary said.

Callary said Ottawa is quite dependent on business travel for conferences and major cultural and sporting events, which will take longer to recover, especially in the fall.

Since Ottawa’s rules match those across the river in Gatineau, Que. match, but gives visitors more clarity about what they can and can’t do, she added.