The U.S. government shut down yesterday thanks to a standoff in Congress, leaving special event professionals in the Washington area to grapple with the fallout.
So far, the reaction from event pros contacted by Special Events has been mixed, with some reporting a rash of event cancellations while others saying that so far, it's business as usual.
"Clients have called to cancel, postpone and reschedule events," says Joann Chae, general manager of valet sales and operations for Atlantic Valet. Chae also serves as president of ISES DC. "They have asked if we could be on 'standby' until final decisions are being made, and we are more than happy to oblige."
NO TIME TO ADAPT The industry-wide trend toward painfully short lead times is affecting the ability of event pros to respond to this crisis. "We are fortunate to be so flexible, but these situations have strained our ability to be more proactive in our operations," Chae adds. "The amount of time to plan has decreased making us much more responsive to our client’s needs. We are looking forward to a speedy resolution and working to stay optimistic and support our clients however we can in the district."
President Obama is slated to meet with Congressional leaders later today to discuss the shutdown.
Popular photographer Pepe Gomez, who shoots such landmark Washington events as the Corcoran Ball, tells Special Events that he received cancellations from two clients yesterday. Gomez reports that uncertainly on the part of clients led them to cancel their events. "I hope this gets resolved soon so we can get back to regular business," Gomez says.
In contrast, the team at Bravo Events by Design in Washington has gone ahead with its two-day event, which started yesterday. The event is a product launch for InStyle Essentials on the Woodrow Wilson Plaza of the Reagan Building.
"We did have momentary discussions regarding cancellations as there was concern regarding reduced foot traffic which is critical to the success of the event," explains Bravo founder and president Nancy Shaffer. "Based on the demographics of the workforce—nongovernment, which is substantial in the area--the dollars already allocated, and the public nature of this event, the decision was to move forward."
But the event will likely feel the effects of the shutdown, Shaffer says. "We do anticipate sales of the product will be less but the brand marketing will have still have strong impact," she notes.
Kathy Valentine, CEO of Arlington, Va.-based Design Cuisine, reports that her firm is still producing events in the area, including a big one last night at the National Building Museum. With many Washington landmarks popular as event venues subject to closure in light of the shutdown, some event pros are scrambling to find venues that will remain open.
WHERE TO GO? "We are working closely with our clients for upcoming events to find alternative locations just in case the government stays closed for a few weeks," she says. Valentine notes that destination marketing agency Destination DC provides a list of venues that remain open.
Everyone in Washington seems to be waiting to exhale. "The city is quieter than normal of course," Shaffer says, "and the government employees passing by to clean out offices were very frustrated."
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