On again, off again: Some holiday events still taking place despite COVID-19

“A lot of the events that we have just aren’t happening.” said Ashlei Johnson with South Beach Biloxi Hotel.

On again, off again: Some holiday events still taking place despite COVID-19

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - With a vaccine potentially weeks away from Mississippi’s shores, holiday parties and celebrations could be on the chopping block.

Many public events are already being canceled, but other celebrations and gatherings are going on as scheduled. Under the shadow of the biggest one-day spike in new COVID-19 cases yet, parties may look a little different this year. This includes locations like the South Beach Event Center stand, ready to help you with your holiday activities.

That’s because in a COVID-19 world, bookings this year are few and far between. Their book of business is about as empty as the parking lot. But just how much yuletide business hasn’t come back? Ashlei Johnson with South Beach Biloxi Hotel & Event Center said most of it.

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“A lot of the events that we have just aren’t happening, the ones that we’ve had year over year,” said Johnson. “Government-related events and school-related events that have a lot of people, especially ones that were over 100 guests, we just don’t have those. They’re not happening.”

For those still seeking a holly jolly Christmas, Johnson has an alternative.

“We do have good options for outdoor spaces up to 100 people and we are not having that amount of people in those spaces,” Johnson said. “So some of our guests have transferred their event to being more of an outdoor type of event.”

Of course, that’s the story that you’re going to hear at most locations and from most caterers in South Mississippi. Over at White Pillars, Chef Austin Sumrall said that he’s still booking some events but nothing like he does usually in the busiest month of the year.

“Most of our large events have been canceling, mostly due to someone directly involved falling ill or jus tout of an abundance of caution,” Sumrall said.

Despite the loss of onsite events, Sumrall said that some of his catering business is still on the books.

“We’ve done a little bit of stuff outside the restaurant,” Sumrall said. “People are getting creative with outdoor seating and things like that. Even in December, you can get days like today that are absolutely beautiful and perfect for an outside event.”

Sumrall is hoping that his unique space will ease the worries of the smaller groups still wanting to deck the halls.

“We’ve got a lot of space,” Sumrall said. “We’re really blessed with that too in that we can follow all of the restrictions and still do some events. 2020 was the first year that we’ve had without a single wedding in the restaurant. So, that’s obviously a pretty big deal. We hope that we’ll be able to get twice as many next year.”

Management at both South Beach Biloxi Hotel & Event Center and White Pillars said that they are following local, state, and federal guidelines for all of their scheduled holiday celebrations.

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