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Ohio Event Planners Want A Seat At The Socially-Distanced Table

Michael Morse

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced that event venues like catering and banquet centers can open back up in June 1. Guidelines for those businesses will include a cap of 300 people, no dance floors, limited mingling and six feet between tables. 

But the industry says that’s not enough.

“It’s definitely a step forward, but it’s not the step that we were necessarily hoping for,” says Berlyn Martin, an event and wedding planner in Columbus.

She had drafted a letter asking Gov. Mike DeWine to create an Ohio Special Events Advisory Group to address the re-opening their industry, similar to those made for bars, restaurant, beauty salons and barbershops.

“We are still a massive economic engine that’s being left without the ability to communicate our needs and challenges to the administration,” Martin says.

While she says the restrictions are a good start, they don’t remotely resemble what people have come to expect from events.

“To say that someone is going to go to a wedding with their closest family and friends and not be permitted to leave their table with a drink,” she says. “Are you going to be the one to tell the married couple that they can’t go over and say hello to their relative who’s traveled across the country to be there for them?”

Martin says industry insiders will be able to help the administration craft workable recommendations that allow for events while keeping the public safe.

“Our initiative realizes the inherent danger in this, and the gravity of needing to move forward cautiously,” she says. “And that’s why our specific petition was not a call to reopen events indiscriminately, but instead to find a solution that is realistic, sustainable and safe.”

But that solution, Martin says, simply won’t come without input from people like her.

“Without the ability to offer feedback on how these restrictions are going to impact us specifically and how we can realistically implement safety measures in our jobs, they are putting us in an impossible situation," she says.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.