Wedding and Special-Event Venues Get Creative
This year has prompted the hospitality industry to get creative in all kinds of ways.
From outdoor dining tables and “parklets” turning parking spaces in downtown Wilmington into socially distanced tables, business owners are navigating the changes prompted by COVID-19.
That type of thinking extends to event venue owners such as Ray Baca, whose 2,000-square-foot space is on Princess Street in downtown Wilmington.
He decided he needed to think outside the box this year and offer up a different type of dinner party setting.
So now, Belle Vue is welcoming small groups of no more than ten (and now, with the easing of restrictions in Phase 2.5, no more than twenty-five) to have an evening of dinner and time with friends.
“Say you want to have a dinner party but need a larger space but not a restaurant. You can grab your buddies, bring your own food and BYOB, and come have dinner here in a selected space and enjoy yourself,” Baca says. “Afterwards, you don’t have to clean up. I take care of that and you can go home.”
Baca says Belle Vue has the space for social distancing but still allows people to be intimate with their friends. He says so far the concept is working well, and even though it’s not the restaurant or bar that people are often used to, people can pick up their meal at their favorite restaurant and bring it over to his space.
“It’s a different way to do things, but it also keeps people in their group and you don’t have to be out in the public,” he says.
March 17 is a day that Baca won’t soon forget. The owner of Belle Vue Wilmington was busy preparing for the upcoming bridal season when state officials announced that venues like his event space would be closing due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Wilmington is a hot place for weddings, so you can imagine what the pandemic has done to the wedding business in 2020,” says Baca, who started Belle Vue four years ago as an all-things-wedding space.
Previously a wedding photographer, Baca says that many brides have canceled or postponed their weddings, and it’s not only his facility that is hurting but other businesses associated with wedding planning or wedding events.
“We are a pretty close-knit group that looks out for each other so all of us consider community over competition,” he says, referring to others who work in the industry.
For what business there has been this year, venues have joined together to allocate whose space works better for what kind of event. Baca says that some event spaces have outdoor spaces while others do not, and outdoor spaces are fairly popular right now.
Places also have organized small-scale weddings with smaller crowds than the hundreds of guests once common for many nuptials.
Belle Vue is also home to many baby showers, but that was one more aspect of his business that was thrown out the window when COVID hit, Baca says, explaining that type of event is kaput because many expectant mothers were more cautious.
Baca estimates that it will take a couple of years for the wedding industry in Wilmington to see a recovery. Until then, he is continuing to forge ahead with other small events like private parties and looks forward to the day when things will be back to normal. He says he already has 60 events on the 2021 calendar and hopes that all of them will take place.
“We just lost this whole year because of COVID, and we are just having to reinvent ourselves,” he says. “There are always going to be weddings, and I love the wedding industry. At some point, we will bounce back.”
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