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Event planners create a coalition advocating for safe reopening in San Luis Obispo County

Guests arrive in masks for small private tastings at Tolosa Winery.
Courtesy: Tolosa Winery
Posted at 11:20 PM, Sep 28, 2020

Large private events like weddings, graduations, and corporate parties were the first to be canceled when the pandemic hit and may be the last to return.

A group of local event planners created the San Luis Obispo County Event Coalition and are banding together to lobby at the state capitol to ensure their industry is not left out of reopening plans.

"Our local industry is dying a pretty quick death here,” Beau Kramers, owner of Kramer Events, said.

Kramer is one of the founders of the SLO County Events Coalition and said the group was created to bring awareness to the widespread devastation of the industry.

"There is literally no conversation being had in Sacramento about the private event industry. We're not even on a guideline or any of the steps of reopening,” Kramer said.

With few weddings on the calendar at Greengate Ranch and Vineyard in San Luis Obispo, event coordinators worry about future reservations.

“Everything that had to be postponed to 2021 means that we can't bring in new revenue in that year, so not only are we being hit hard this year, we're also being hit hard next year as well,” Jena Wilson, director of operations/events at Greengate Ranch and Vineyard, there.

Not only is the coalition calling on industry workers to follow best practices, but also asking state leaders to provide them.

“We know these events are happening because people are taking it upon themselves to do it and they are not being done right, they are not being done safely,” Holly Holliday, event manager at Tolosa Winery, said.

Holliday says it can be done safely.

She said she has successfully put on four private tasting events at Tolosa Winery during the pandemic and all featured masks, spaced out tables and limited capacity.

So far, Holliday has been going off of reopening guidelines for restaurants, but says it would be easier if there were specifics.

“We are being lumped in with large scale events like festivals, concerts where you have those mass gatherings,” Holliday said. “What we want to see are private events that are outdoors for a smaller amount of people that are regulated."

Since California is the only state to not outline private events, industry workers say clients are leaving.

“We are seeing successful events happening around the U.S. with clear guidelines and certain scaled-size events as the numbers go down, but unfortunately ca is losing some business right now because those other states are reopening and we're not,” Amber Karson, owner of Karson Butler Events, said.

Like many others, Karson has had to shift her business model to cater to online events.

She has created a party planning heaven at the Au Louis building in downtown San Luis Obispo and is creating small party boxes customers can customize and mail to guests.

Members of the coalition said they have been talking with local public health officers, but San Luis Obispo County reopening guidelines depend on state guidance.

The coalition is working with the California Association for Private Events (CAPE) to advocate for the industry at state and local levels.