Nashville’s once-booming convention business is starting the long road to rebuilding. On Thursday, the city entered phase three, which will allow gatherings of up to 500 with special approval from the health department.
Sherry Franklin is the sales director for the Renaissance Hotel and says people won’t see large masses immediately.
“With the cap of 500 attendees, [it] didn’t mean we turned the switch on last night or this morning,” she says. “It takes a lot of months to plan those kinds of meetings.”
But meeting-dependent hotels like Franklin’s can at least start rebooking events with some confidence that they won’t have to cancel again. She says it also allows the Renaissance to bring more managers off furlough.
Nashville’s next step still requires restaurants, gyms and salons to operate at half capacity. Health officials say they plan to stay at this level at least a month.
Meanwhile, the state has lifted all of the remaining business restrictions for suburban and rural counties. And Gov. Bill Lee has encouraged Nashville to do the same, in an effort to revive the hospitality industry. Conventions, tourism and hospitality employ 71,000 people in Nashville, by the city’s figures.
The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation says 1,415 meetings and conventions have been cancelled, which were expected to generate nearly $100 million in state and local taxes. Of those who cancelled, 176 have rescheduled so far.
“Obviously these last five months have been very difficult for us because we’ve been virtually shut down,” says Nealy Glenn of The Cordelle and Saint Elle, which host weddings and parties.
She says all of her photographers, caterers and rental companies are depending on the reopening to be sustained safely. “You will allow all the vendors we work with to survive.”