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June 12, 2020

Lehman: Indoor weddings, events may return in July

Photo | St. Clements Castle & Marina St. Clements Castle & Marina in Portland has been leveraging video conferencing and social media to market its ballrooms during the COVID-19 crisis.

As Connecticut enters its second phase of business reopenings next week, an estimated 95% of the state’s economy will be back in business to some extent, but wedding and banquet facilities will remain on the sidelines.

That will likely change in July when the next reopening phase kicks in, David Lehman, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said during a Thursday webinar with members of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

"It’s very likely that indoor events will be allowed in a meaningful capacity in our phase three, which is going to be mid-July,” Lehman said in response to a question about reopening function businesses submitted by Tom McDowell, owner of Middletown-based CT Wedding Group.

Wedding operators have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, scrambling to reschedule events and stem revenue losses. The summer months are a crucial period for their businesses. 

Exactly what Lehman means by “meaningful capacity” remains to be seen.

David Lehman, Commissioner, State Department of Economic and Community Development

"We’re going to provide guidance shortly for both outdoor events and indoor events,” Lehman said.

For the first two reopening phases, Gov. Ned Lamont -- who joined Lehman on Thursday’s call -- has limited various businesses, from offices to restaurants to gyms, at 50% capacity, with enhanced cleaning and safety measures. He has also placed an emphasis on outdoor operations, where transmission of the virus is seen as less likely.

As the second phase approaches, Lamont said he’ll be watching closely for signs of the virus’ resurgence. Recent spikes in cases have been reported in Arizona and several other states.

Lamont said Connecticut residents have been more responsible than people in many other states about wearing masks and social distancing.

"Right now I’m feeling pretty confident that our next opening next week is going to be good,” he said.

Besides wedding and banquet venues, Lamont said he will have to decide in the coming weeks on restrictions for bars and other indoor entertainment venues.

The taxes generated by business reopenings are crucial for the state’s budget, Lamont said Connecticut’s $2.5 billion rainy day fund has the state in better position than neighboring Rhode Island and New York, which are weighing borrowing money to pay operating expenses.

“We have not had to do that,” Lamont said. “If we get this economy up and operating, let's say over the next few months, certainly by the end of the year, I think we’ll be able to weather this without a big tax increase, without big cuts in spending.”

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