Ring the wedding bells: Catering halls react to restrictive reopening

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Ziegfeld Ballroom located at 141 W 54th St.
Photo courtesy of Steve Sendor, Sophisticated Weddings

Wedding bells can once again ring out across New York, albeit with mandatory restrictions.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that receptions and catering events can resume serving consumers on their special days and other social events after a year of shuttered doors and empty halls. amNewYork Metro reached to event venues to get their reaction on the news.

March 15 officially marked reopening day for catering halls, which allowed the sites to once again host receptions and other events throughout New York state. But before couples pop the question or champagne bottles, there are several restrictions venues and clients must adhere to, such as capacity capped at 50% (with no more than 150 attendees per event) and all attendees must show proof that they have either been vaccinated or have had a negative COVID-19 test result, along with a slew of other rules.

“Weddings and catered events will now be allowed to resume across the state, with strict protocols in place to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers. This is great news – but we must continue with the practices that we know work to defeat this virus once and for all,” Cuomo said in a press release.

The Weylin in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is one of many catering halls that have been shuttered throughout the pandemic. In January, Carlos Perez San Martin, the executive director of the Weylin, told amNewYork Metro that he was pleased regarding the Governor’s March 15th opening date, and now that it’s finally here, he is ready to start the parties.

“Weylin staff and ownership are anxious to start rolling again. We are studying protocols and trying to abide by all necessary requirements mandated by City and State. We will keep our commitment of making memorable moments for our clients and guests,” Perez San Martin told amNewYork Metro.

Weylin in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo by Dean Moses

Throughout its closure, the Weylin was still booking reservations for events in 2021 and 2022 while also advising clients about the regulations that lay before them. Some of the state mandated guidelines include closing events by midnight (service can resume/start at 5am), only dancing with individuals at their designated table and within special distancing zones, and only removing masks whilst eating.

One of the biggest gripes for some is this dance police. The old school prom rule of keeping the holy spirit between dancers has been expanded to six feet apart, unless you either live with the person or were given assigned seating at their table.

While many venues are pleased to finally get the ball rolling on hosting events, the restrictions add an additional barrier to their business practices. Some have voiced concerns that members of government do not fully comprehend their industry, which in turn leaves business owners at a standstill.

Allan Kurtz, the Gotham Hall and Ziegfeld Ballroom managing director, is also happy albeit managing his expectations for this small step forward. While venues are permitted to open, the reality of hosting a wedding or large-scale event prior to May is slim. Planning for such occasions takes several weeks, and with the added restrictions time is of the essence.

“A wedding can be done in six weeks or eight weeks, as far as planning is concerned it doesn’t happen on a dime. No one says ‘Oh great it’s March 15, I can plan a wedding in four days for 150 guests.’ It doesn’t work that way. It needs some lead time. A higher guest count in the not-so-distant future would be a good thing because you need advance notice in order to plan,” Kurtz told amNewYork Metro.

Gotham Hall located at 1356 Broadway. Photo courtesy of Allan Kurtz

Planning expensive affairs, even just for a headcount of 150 individuals takes careful consideration. With the future of site capacity still in a precarious state, it leaves managers like Kurtz to discuss hypothetical plans with clients, a difficult predicament to be sure. While some customers are making preliminary requests for a reception that could seat 400 people in June if capacity restricting’s increase, others are planning consecutive corporate events of 150 guests with the hopes that they might also be able to increase that number.

New York is still on the road to recovery, so the ability to get back to business as usual is still at the far end of a dimly lit tunnel for catering venues. Kurtz has been using his two locations for films, limited capacity fashion shows, as a well-ventilated area for a movie studio to conduct hair and makeup, and other ventures. The March 15 milestone is just a starting marker for what is expected to arise later this spring and summer.

“They’re positive steps and that’s great but we need more positive steps,” Kurtz said, adding, “The announcement spurred more interests especially in the non-profit and corporate world.”

Kurtz likewise shared that many in the hospitality industry are still hesitant about hosting large-scale events, especially when the Governor has not officially announced a structured plan of capacity increases aside from on April 2nd, event, arts and entertainment venues can reopen at 33% capacity, which includes 100 indoors and 200 people outdoors.

In addition to being left in the dark for future planning, Kurtz feels that restrictions shouldn’t be so constrictive if clients will be tested at the door to ensure safety.

“You can get onto a packed subway car, I ride the Long Island Railroad and look at how many people are in here per square feet and yet you can’t go to an event,” Kurtz said. “We’ll get through this, but we just wish that we had advance notice. We are thankful for the March 15 [date] and we are happy for the April 2 marker, but as we increase it’s time to move it up faster.”

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