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'Dire outlook': Wedding industry leaders call on MDHHS to take action and reopen events

The Grand Rapids Chamber orchestrated the letter, which called for MDHHS to allow banquet and wedding venues 'equal opportunity to open safely.'

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On Monday, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce organized a letter, which was signed by more than a dozen organizations, asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to take immediate action in allowing wedding venues and banquet halls to reopen safely. 

The Grand Rapids Chamber held a press conference at the Goei Center in Grand Rapids, which was a set up to demonstrate the ability to host a large scale even safely and to stress that the coming months cast a "dire outlook" for venues hoping to survive the 2021 season. 

►Read the letter in full here.

Under current orders, banquet venues are limited to a 25-person threshold when there are other instances that allow safe gatherings of 100-guests at a time.

The letter to Gov. Whitmer states that "Without the ability to plan around future potential capacity limits for the coming months they face little prospects for surviving 2021. It is extremely disappointing and frustrating for them to see other indoor venues to be able to benefit from the improving metrics, and not be given an equal opportunity to safely reopen."

Representing the wedding and banquet industry in Grand Rapids, the Chamber was joined by:

  • Bing Goei, CEO of Eastern Floral
  • Kim Smith, president of The Catering Company
  • Jamie Carnes, owner of Special Occasions Michigan
  • Doug Small, president & CEO of Experience Grand Rapids

“Like the Goei Center, many of these facilities are built on investment in historic, and sometimes, dilapidated or obsolete industrial and office spaces, returning them to vibrant life and activity and benefitting the community around them, said Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber. “There are numerous other examples of this in the Grand Rapids area, and unfortunately, they still remain functionally shuttered by State’s emergency orders.”

“We ask that you open us up quickly, and pray that you will do so swiftly, so that we may salvage some of our summer business,” emphasized Bing Goei, CEO of Eastern Floral.

“Today, both of my companies are skeletons of what they once were,” stressed Kim Smith, president of The Catering Company. “At this point in 2021, I’m not sure what to tell my clients when they ask if they are able to have their event inside this year. The heartbreak continues for hundreds of clients, and the displaced event professionals that employ them.”

“We urge the administration to immediately provide them with a fair capacity limit that gives them a chance to preserve their businesses and livelihoods,” shared Josh Lunger, senior director of government affairs of the Grand Rapids Chamber.

►Watch the full press conference here:

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