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SLO wedding vendors pivot business in order to stay afloat amid COVID-19 restrictions

Posted at 9:27 AM, Jun 26, 2020

Restrictions on wedding ceremonies were recently removed by Gov. Newsom but the receptions and after-parties remain on hold, meaning Central Coast wedding vendors are forced to pivot to other revenue opportunities.

It's a waiting game for businesses like Taylor Rental, which supplies party tents, linens, and chairs, and The Penny, which serves as a venue for receptions.

"A large majority of our business was for weddings, family get-togethers, graduation parties," Taylor Rental CEO Colin Barncastle said.

At the start of 2020, special events filled nearly every weekend of the calendar at Taylor Rental, but the pandemic wiped out weddings and shut down events.

Though it's pennies on the dollar compared to what the business was earning before, Taylor Rental is now using his tents to assist with the pandemic.

"Working with the City to set up tents for COVID response, medical tents for testing and or treatment," Barncastle said.

The tents that are usually reserved for parties and celebrations are now being used by Med-Stop as testing sites in San Luis Obispo County.

Across town, a wedding venue on Higuera Street, called The Penny, is now being repurposed, as well.

"We're like man, maybe with movie theaters being shut down, we could maybe convert this space into a movie theater and only allow up to 10 people in there," The Penny Owner Josh Christensen said.

Faced with cancellations of wedding parties, the Christensen and his wife, Lauren, are turning the historic space into a private theater.

For $100 per ticket, guests receive admission to a movie and a snack box with a Sidecar cocktail and gourmet popcorn in an intimate setting.

"It's over 2500 square feet, the building is, and to fit 10 people in there with couches keeps it pretty distanced still," Christensen said.

Seating is on the mind of Barncastle, too, who is now directing clients to rent a larger number of small tables and bigger tents to allow social distancing.

"That way we're still getting together, we're not missing out on our emotional needs, which can be very crippling to people that don't get them, and at the same time we're being safe," Barncastle said.

With the recent surge in California's infection rate comes a stark reminder that we must adapt to a new normal.

"Honestly, some of the things that come out of this period are going to be things I think we build upon when things are back to normal to some extent," Christensen said. "It's forced us to dig out of our single-track minds."

The Penny is also putting together an elopement package, that allows couples to make their wedding special while staying safe.