Attending events in the time of COVID

Among the hardest hit businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic are those that depend on public attendance and social interaction: performing arts organizations, events, sports and performance venues. COVID has brought their primary revenue-generating activities to a full stop.

Event organizers, venue operators and performers are all trying to make sense of the situation and predict the future. They have two pressing questions: when will they be able to get back to business, and what changes will they need to make?

This fall and winter we will likely see a gradual reopening of events and venues, and these businesses are already considering the changes they will need to make in order to ensure the safety of their customers.

“Soft seater” venues – sports arenas, concert halls, performing arts venues – will need to limit seating capacity so that attendees can maintain distance between each other. Seating could be limited to every second row, and only even numbered seats. This in itself poses a challenge: in order to reduce seating capacity at sporting events, will season seat holders only be permitted to attend half of the home games? It will also be important to obtain the name and contact information of all attendees in the event that contact tracing is required. The logistics will be problematic but necessary to resolve.

General admission events and venues have unique challenges: when there is no assigned seating – for example, at a music club or an outdoor fair – how can organizers ensure that attendees practice appropriate social distancing?

In all cases, venues could ease back into business with small scale events where they are able to test and establish best practices: limiting capacity, installing guidelines signage, applying floor decals to indicate appropriate distancing, improving washroom and hand sanitizing facilities.

Despite these efforts to reassure the public, it’s difficult to predict how the public will respond. Will we experience a lingering post-COVID hangover or will we be eager to get back to our pre-COVID way of life?

The short-term solution is to implement health, safety and social distancing best practices in order to regain the trust and confidence of your customers. Only time will tell, though, if event and venue businesses need to innovate and revise their business model to respond to shifting post-COVID public attitudes.

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