Petition asks Virginia governor to reopen wedding and event venues

Virginia

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The wedding and event industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

A petition asking Gov. Ralph Northam to safely reopen these venues for larger groups in Virginia now has more than 2,000 signatures.

The woman who started it, Kelsey Ann Leeper, is the manager at the Historic Post Office in Downtown Hampton.

“We’ve had clients who have postponed three times already,” she told WAVY.

Leeper said the industry is being decimated from caterers, to photographers, DJs, and florists. Since the pandemic began her venue has had more than 60 events postponed and more than 40 canceled.

“We’re not trying to have huge unruly gatherings we simply want to be able to operate with more than 10 people,” she said.

The 20,000-square-foot venue has plenty of space for social distancing, she argues. She wants to be afforded the same rules as restaurants and retail shops.

“We can [wear] masks, we can regulate dance floors. If alcohol is a concern, we can talk about alcohol consumption at events.”

10 On Your Side reached out to Richmond. A spokesperson for Northam, Alena Yarmosky, responded in defense of Northam’s current 10-person limit on social gatherings.

She said that events like weddings “usually involve people who know each other and therefore are more likely to be in close contact with one another — staying apart from friends, loved ones, and family who often travel from out of town for a celebratory event like a wedding goes against our instincts.”

Yarmosky also said that it’s also important to note gatherings at restaurants are also limited to no more than 10 people.

However, Leeper told us there’s a catch. Some are circumventing the system by booking several parties of 10 at the same restaurant and moving their events to those locations.

Leeper said, “We’re kind of at the end of our rope and we’re kind of considering protesting in Richmond if that’s what it takes.”

And if their voices fall on deaf ears she said they may be forced into court.

Leeper’s petition is on Change.org.

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