Event Halls and Caterers Struggling Through Another Shutdown
While many are focused on restaurant and bar closures, catering and event spaces are quietly facing financial challenges of their own.
One of the largest event centres in Essex County is reporting its first financial loss since 2001 with a third shutdown underway due to COVID-19.
The Ciociaro Club at 3745 N. Talbot Rd. in Oldcastle announced that its revenue, from October of 2019 through December of 2020, is down 75 per cent.
President Mark Rossi says the club will continue to operate at a loss until the province allows more people to gather indoors.
"When you have a facility as large as ours you can do things safely and social distance," he says. "People are willing to follow the rules and guidelines but it's like trying to hit a moving target."
He says the club is debt free, and should be able to weather the storm, but some event halls could be on the brink of shutting down in 2021.
"The government needs to allow us to do something safe and equitable for ourselves, our members and our guests. It's just a difficult time all around for them," he added.
Rossi says takeout service and the province's wage and revenue subsidies barely cover 10 per cent of operating costs.
"It makes it a little bit more manageable but it's nothing close to covering the daily overhead," he says. "You could shut a complex like ours down, but you're still paying a large amount of money every month that's just not covered."
Catering businesses make the bulk of their cash serving food or laying out buffets for weddings, corporate events and other large gatherings.
Co-owner of The Other Place Catering in Windsor, Anthony Moscardelli, says if shoppers can graze in the produce section unimpeded, there has to be a safe way serve food to groups.
"I can be at a Costco jammed with people or a Walmart or any big-box store, where you look at some of the things that go on there that would be completely against code for what we have to do," he says.
Moscardelli says they've been providing individually packaged meals, takeout and delivery services, but it's not nearly enough to cover overhead.
He believes there are ways to provide catering services safely.
"You don't have sanitizing stations all over the place at a grocery store, but at a catering hall you can have them everywhere; where ever you want," he says.
Moscardelli says some owners are taking on second jobs to keep their business afloat.
"That's why it's hard to retain staff, because they have to do the same thing. Whether it's in food and beverage, construction," he says. "Hey, might as well get a job at Costco because everybody's busy over there or go to Walmart where you'll get guaranteed hours."
Moscardelli says the biggest challenge right now is trying to plan for the future with rules changing from week to week.
Windsor-Essex will remain in the current shutdown until at least May.