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'All dressed up with nowhere to go' | Wedding/event industry crippled by 25-person limit, owners are still giving back

Venues like Grand Affairs in Virginia Beach are trying to make 25-guest capacities worth their while. But, this weekend most clients canceled or postponed.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — It’s the first full weekend under Governor Ralph Northam’s tighter restrictions. Alcohol sales at restaurants and bars stop at 10 p.m., and they close at 12 a.m.

While capacity at restaurants is dictated by spacing tables six feet apart, wedding and event venues are restricted to just 25 guests.

Venues like Grand Affairs in Virginia Beach are trying to make 25-guest capacities worth their while. But, this weekend most clients canceled or postponed.

“We thought we might go back to 50, but 25 kind of threw us,” said Director of Operations Whitney Vines.

Vines said the governor’s new restrictions basically shut her doors during their busiest months.

“Usually booked from Thursdays all the way through Sundays solid, without any space,” Vines said.

Weddings, holiday parties, military balls are all hanging in the balance.

“It’s been a little bit hectic,” said Catering Director Jaki Honeyman. “Mostly some panicky brides that you have to calm their nerves down a little bit.”

The venue is 2,000 square feet and it can seat 800 people for events like corporate meetings. Vines said they made a comeback over the summer when capacity hit 250. She said they stayed on top of safety protocols.

“All the staff wear masks and gloves,” Vines said. “The tables are set eight to 10 feet apart. Six guests to a table.”

She said staff serve the buffet and handle utensils for guests.

The guest caps affect catering sales too. Still, Vines keeps trays of food coming for a cause close to the company’s heart.

“We feed 150 homeless every Sunday,” said Vines.

Grand Affairs has donated meals to Pin Ministries for 15 years. Vines and staff spend a good part of their Sunday making the food. Even through the company’s own struggle, Vines wants to do more.

“We are hoping to be a food bank drop off,” Vines said. “We have refrigeration, we have space, we are happy to help.”

She has no idea what the future holds for Grand Affairs or the industry, but said community service will always be a part of what they do.

“We are established, we have been here for 43+ years,” Vines said. “We are holding on. But I know there are people who aren’t able to hold on.”