Atlantic City leaders press government for event and conference reopening as COVID subsides
Local business leaders and Atlantic City workers and officials lobbied Governor Phil Murphy during an April 30 morning press conference, held on the town’s promenade between Boardwalk Hall and the beach, to roll back restrictions on conventions, trade fairs and events, which constitute an important part of the region’s economy.
They believe the governor should prioritize reopening these segments of the economy, as he considers further easing COVID-19 restrictions.
Atlantic City has two main event spaces: the 500,000 square foot Atlantic City Convention Center and Boardwalk Hall, both of which are owned by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and operated by Meet AC. Neither offered a response when contacted for comment. Many of the city’s casinos provide ample floor space for events and entertainment.
The closure of indoor events and attendee limits, now set at 250, have been devastating for the events industry, according to many executives. The closures and in-person restrictions have criticized the casino industry and made the city’s unemployment one of the highest in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is now more important than ever that we ease indoor capacity restrictions to allow our properties to resume in-room meetings and conferences,” said the Casino Association of New Jersey – the business group of the nine casinos in the State – in a written statement. “We’re ready and ready to safely bring back conventions and meetings with the same rigorous health and safety protocols we’ve been using since our reopening last July.”
“[C]The onventions and lounges represent $ 1.9 billion in revenue for Atlantic City, and the convention center, hotels and local businesses that surround the area depend heavily on these revenues to survive, ”a statement read from April 29 from the local assembly Vince Mazzeo, a Democrat.
On Friday morning, he joined fellow District MP John Armato, a Democrat, and Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick, along with several labor organizations whose members organize events in the city.
“I know how important meetings, conventions and trade shows are to the economic livelihood of Atlantic City and its surrounding areas,” said Fitzpatrick. “I think it is essential to defend the unique amenities Atlantic City has to offer and to ensure that we are not left out of plans to reopen.”
So far, reopens have focused on the outdoors: Festivals and fairs, outdoor venues, and outdoor gatherings can all increase to their maximum size as of May 10. Murphy promised future reopenings but did not say what they would be.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a much faster reopening schedule for domestic businesses throughout May, but New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would lift restrictions completely related to COVID-19 by the weekend of July 4.
New York City may begin offering bar seating on May 3, Cuomo said, but it remains banned in New Jersey.
Larry Sieg, who runs Meet AC, said in a previous interview that at the moment the focus is mostly on outdoor summer events like athletic competitions. Indoor events ‘typically slow down’ during a non-COVID summer, and the big money makers that can attract tens of thousands of attendees are scheduled between late fall and early spring, ”he said. he told NJBIZ.
Lawmakers pressed Murphy in September to reverse the restrictions as the summer season began to wind down.
“Atlantic City cannot afford to be empty during the winter season and certainly cannot afford the long term impacts of not being able to schedule conventions and trade shows for upcoming or future dates,” we read in the letter. And, they pressed it again in March, in a letter that was also addressed to both Meet AC and CRDA.
Other hotels and casinos host events and entertainment and are concerned about how they would fare in the months to come, even with expanded outdoor amenities.
“[W]With indoor catering capacities and bar restrictions at current levels, it will be very difficult to meet demand and optimize the customer experience, ”read a statement prepared by Joe Lupo, President of Hard Rock in Atlantic City.
“In addition, the current limit of 250 people on entertainment, meetings and conventions significantly hinders the ability of Atlantic City businesses to fully bounce back to our full potential,” he added.