‘Let us dance’: B.C. event organizers contend with cancellations due to no-dancing rules

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Live event industry struggling amid ongoing restrictions
WATCH: Live event industry struggling amid ongoing restrictions – Oct 24, 2021

Live event organizers and entertainers in B.C. claim many big-revenue clients have been cancelling live event bookings in large numbers after newly announced provincial guidelines lifted event capacity limits but left dancing restrictions and the indoor-mask mandate in place.

“Many of our events that we’ve been working on for months, sometimes even up to a year, will be cancelled if we can’t have dancing and no masks,” said organizer Julie Connolly.

She said many of her local and international clients for her event planning company, Carte Blanche, started booking events for the holiday season because there was hope that all restrictions would be lifted by then.

But many of them have now cancelled their bookings once they learned last week that the indoor-mask mandate and dancing restrictions would remain.

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“I’ve had a number of events cancelled already,” said Connolly, who said she does large celebrations and galas that welcome people from around Canada and the world. “I stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business this holiday season.”

She said companies, like hers, also benefit other industries’ workers who are now feeling the trickle-down effects of the live event cancellations.

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Ontario, B.C. lift pandemic capacity limits as Saskatchewan struggles

“It’s so far-reaching, you wouldn’t think of it right away,” said Connolly, who lists caterers, live musicians, hotel owners and staff as some of the industry workers who feel the pinch of the lack of event bookings.

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Musician Arturo Fermill, also known as D.J. Buddha Sax, says the demand of his services has only declined since the province’s announcement that capacity limits would be lifted.

“I would usually have, in normal times, twenty to thirty gigs booked for Christmas parties, corporate events, even winter weddings right up until Christmas Eve but I currently have one that’s a ‘maybe,’ which will be eventually be cancelled due to the fact that their employees aren’t able to dance on the dance floor.”

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Fermill believes the province underestimated how much revenue would be lost by B.C. small businesses when they chose to leave ‘indoor event dancing’ off the list of activities that were now allowed.

“We now need the government to not have this oversight, because it really is an oversight.”

Micheal Ghirra, who is the owner of Riverside Banquet Halls, said the no-dancing rules and mask mandate have continued to dry up his business as well.

“The announcement was great that we are at 100 per cent capacity at our banquet halls, but nothing has really changed with our businesses and our clients — they’re still not booking,” said Ghirra.

“With Christmas parties, we typically do about 30 to 35 corporate events a year, but this year we’re down to, like, six — and out of those six, we just got a call last week that, because of the no-dancing and indoor-masking rules, that they’re just going to postpone until next year.”

Meanwhile, Connolly is asking the province to make a decision this week on whether dancing will be allowed and the indoor-mask mandate lifted for indoor events so event organizers and staff can plan accordingly for the holiday season.

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“If they intend to lift the mask mandate and remove the dancing restrictions, we need to find out now,” said Connolly. “We can’t wait another couple of weeks or find out in the middle of November or beginning of December, it will be too late — we won’t be able to produce the big shows and employ the people.”

In response, the B.C. Ministry of Health pointed to earlier comments made by Dr. Bonnie Henry last week, highlighting her response to dancing not being allowed at live event venues.

“We are watching that carefully and I hope to be able to take off more restrictions as we get through the next few months,” Henry had said at last Tuesday’s press conference.

Although Connolly said she would prefer if both the indoor-mask mandate and dancing restrictions were lifted, there is one that would allow her businesses to thrive more.

“If I had to pick one or the other, I would definitely say let us dance.”

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