HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The State of Connecticut is set to further loosen COVID-19 restrictions on some events beginning in March, Governor Ned Lamont announced Tuesday.
He cited the COVID infection rate numbers continuing to trend down while vaccinations are up.
About two-thirds of all people age 75 plus in our state have been vaccinated so far, and nearly a quarter of people 65-74 have received the shot. Officials said a record was set Friday when 28,000 shots were administered.
Event spaces were some of the first to get shut down in the pandemic, and are some of the last to be on the reopen list. But Tuesday the governor made the announcement that event planning for large events like weddings, retirement parties and bar mitzvahs can reopen on a limited capacity starting in March.
Starting March 19, private, social and recreational events at commercial venues will be able to increase indoor capacity to 50%, capped now at 100 people (an increase from 25 people). Outdoor events capacity can now be up to 200 people (an increase from 50 people).
And while it starts on March 19, it cracked the door open for hope there may be even fewer restrictions in late spring or early summer.
“Event planners tell us you need time to plan, so that’s why we’re giving you a month to plan this,” Gov. Lamont said. “I know you want some guarantees ‘we can have a big wedding in July.’ I can’t give you guarantees, but right now the trends are good, that’s why we’re giving you this reopening, you know, events starting on March 19th.”
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He said these next steps, of course, will continue to be dependent on the stability of the COVID metrics.
At Ferris Events they plan grand openings and festivals and concerts, and for now, they are glad to scale back and start small. But Kristin Ferris urges her clients to be flexible, especially for weddings.
“Thursdays were popular before this happened, so now you are looking at almost any day of the week to have some type of social event, just in order to accommodate the sheer volume of people who are looking for a venue.”
And event planners say it’s probably going to be a long time before you see people packing out the Bushnell Theater elbow to elbow, that is a long way off. However, this is definitely opening up the door to bigger events into a good summer for all in the event planning industry.
“What we saw last year is that golf tournaments were huge because you could go out and play golf, and you could do it within the COVID protocols. And I think it’s going to just grow this year,” Ferris said.
And she knows her industry is going to have to police themselves.
“We all want to be cautious about this, we don’t want to be that event that all of a sudden is a super spreader. We don’t want to run out the door and be the first to hold all of these capacity events, and have it come back to hurt us.”
We spoke with State Rep. Tony D’Amelio (R), the owner of a small banquet room, Verdi Bar and Restaurant in Waterbury, Wednesday.
He said it has saddened him to see the banquet room at his restaurant empty for months due to the pandemic.
He explained, “We had 42 Christmas parties canceled.” And his financial losses, “Probably over half a million dollars.”
“They made it seem like restaurants were the breeding ground for the coronavirus.”
He tells News 8 he is happy to hear Governor Lamont is lifting some of the restrictions on businesses like his.
“It’s a sigh of relief in many ways,” he said. He adds, the governor’s announcement may give more poeple hope that it’s ok to frequent some banquet halls and restaurants again.
The business owner and republican politician doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with the governor, but with the decision, he is giving Lamont praise.
“To me that’s huge. Because now it gives people a sense of hope. We’ve been getting a lot of calls in the last month because people want to have parties.”
D’Amelio is banking on that sense of hope one day filling his banquet room again.
CT’s Restaurant Association released a statement following the governor’s announcement on the increase of indoor and outdoor event capacity starting in March:
We’re very appreciative that Governor Lamont has heard the pleas of our industry, and that Connecticut now has a plan for gradually opening up indoor and outdoor events in the months ahead. Before the pandemic, Connecticut’s event industry and related businesses accounted for 32,000 jobs per month, and it’s critical for our state’s local economy that we get all of those people working again.
This new timetable for reopening will give confidence to our customers and guests who need to plan months in advance for their special events. We’re thankful the governor understood that dynamic and that his administration took action. We look forward to being part of Connecticut’s post-COVID recovery in the months and years ahead.”– Scott Dolch, Executive Director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association