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Events industry workers march in downtown San Diego; call for reopening guidelines, small business aid

Events workers marched from Waterfront Park to San Diego Convention Center to call for reopening guidelines and business aid
Events workers marched from Waterfront Park to the San Diego Convention Center to call for reopening guidelines and small business aid on Sept. 7, 2020.
(Andrea Lopez-Villafaña)

Events industry workers and business owners marched in San Diego Monday calling for a safe reopening roadmap and additional funding resources from the government

The sound of rolling metal road cases, typically filled with lighting, sound and electrical equipment, is one that live events technical specialist Erik Lund hasn’t heard since the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of large live events in March.

That changed on Monday when at least 60 events industry workers rolled dozens of empty road cases from Waterfront Park to the San Diego Convention Center to urge county and state officials to provide clear reopening guidelines and financial assistance to workers and businesses affected by the pandemic.

“What we are looking for is the ability to hold on to our live event industry here in San Diego so we don’t lose it,” Lund said. “We usually sit in the background but now we are forcing ourselves to be in the public view ... it’s not just concerts it’s conventions, weddings, charity events, even haunted houses.”

Lund has been in the special events industry for 26 years. He said people in the industry are anxiously watching as events companies close and venues struggle to survive.

The march was organized by the newly formed San Diego Event Coalition, a group of San Diego event producers, planners and venue managers. Similar protests were held last month in San Diego and other cities.

The coalition is asking officials to provide the events industry with clear guidelines to safely reopen. It is also asking for an updated Paycheck Protection Program with special consideration for the events industry, extension of unemployment benefits and grant funds.

The coalition released its own proposed safety guidelines that outline event logistics, employee training, face mask guidelines, contact tracing and more.

Laurel McFarlane, who helped found the group and owns McFarlane Promotions, said events industry companies and employees need guidance and time to prepare for when the time comes to reopen.

“At least bring us to the table so we can plan. We are not like a nail or hair salon, we can’t open in three days,” McFarlane said. “We plan events for months. It’s not like they can say, ‘open up’ and we can open up.”

McFarlane said she hopes officials will adopt or use the coalition’s proposed guidelines as a roadmap.

Yinka Freeman, an event planner, marched down Harbor Dive holding a sign that read, "#SaveLiveEvents Forgotten industry, forgotten worker, forgotten person.”

Freeman launched an events business, Triple Pocket Events, last year and specializes in corporate and private events. She said the pandemic canceled all the events she planned and is unsure of how her business will survive.

“I feel like I have no guidelines, no resources,” she said.


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