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COVID-19 cancels Christmas parties and other live events in Alberta

Click to play video 'Ready to get your party on this Christmas? Why you’ll likely have to wait until next year' Ready to get your party on this Christmas? Why you’ll likely have to wait until next year
WATCH ABOVE: Event planners and restaurant owners are reporting that the majority of Christmas parties are being cancelled across Alberta due to COVID-19. Tomasia DaSilva reports – Oct 8, 2020

Pandemic restrictions are keeping a lot of live events, including Christmas parties, from happening across Alberta this holiday season.

Calgary event planner Lesley Plumley, who owns LP Events, told Global News the Christmas and holiday season is usually one of her busiest seasons, but not this year.

“At this point, all of my Christmas parties have all cancelled,” she said.

“That’s been a little bit of a hard pill to swallow during these times, but I’m not alone.”

Event planners not planning for Christmas parties this year
Event planners not planning for Christmas parties this year. Global News

Plumley recently surveyed 119 people in the live events industry about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey, commissioned by the Alberta government, revealed some startling numbers.

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Plumley said 87 per cent of those surveyed reported 11,000 events cancelled or postponed since COVID-19 hit.

That resulted in a loss of $121 million just in Calgary, and $198 million with Edmonton and Red Deer added in.

“If the message can get out that safe events can happen, we’ll be able to recover,” she said.

Read more: ‘Catastrophic to our livelihoods’: Alberta businesses brace for possible 2nd COVID-19 wave

That message is echoed by those in the hospitality industry.

Brett Ireland is the CEO of the Bearhill Brewing Co and a board member with the Alberta Hospitality Association. He told Global News that Christmas time is usually a profitable period, but this year COVID-19 will cost him.

“It will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we won’t see in revenue for sure,” he said.

Ireland is still hopeful for a few event bookings at his restaurants — hopefully making up for a few brutal months full of health and safety restrictions.

“We’re lucky if we can get up over the 50 per cent of our pre-COVID(-19) — or normal revenue — numbers.”

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Both Ireland and Plumley said the narrative has to change when it comes to what is safe — and what is not — during this pandemic.

“Safe events can happen with professionals — responsible professionals,” Plumley pointed out. “If (parties) can be done safely, and while it may look a bit different this year, we will certainly make it look very unique to each situation.”

Ireland agreed, and added while it “certainly isn’t the time to completely relax everything (restrictions),” it’s important to strike a balance between safety and the economy.

“There’s lots of opportunities to get out to the restaurants and have those events there,” he said.

“It’s likely a safer and hopefully more enjoyable experience than holding a party in a backyard or in somebody’s house.”

Read more: Canada’s deficit to hit $330B as coronavirus lands ‘permanent’ economic impact

Plumley is working on a few special projects for the holiday season. One is a drive-thru Christmas party, the other is an annual tradition in Calgary — the Calgary Firefighters Toy Association event.

Plumley said while they will look different from past years, they’re both very important to the city and its residents.

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“At least we’ll be able to see the smiles on the children’s faces.”