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Eerily-Quiet Event At ARIA Symbolizes Devastation To Events Industry

With the dramatic flair we’ve come to expect at ARIA’s events, there were 48 tables elegantly set on Wednesday, with stage lights shining cool shades of purple and blue on the historic walls. But there would be no guests arriving to enjoy this event.

It was an “empty event,” staged by the Live Events Coalition, to symbolize the deep financial hardships facing not only the owners and employees of event spaces, but also the many companies that support live events– caterers, audio-visual specialists, scenic designers, musicians and so on.

“Each of the 48 tables represents 250,000 people that are without work right now,” said Wendy Porter, founder of the Minnesota branch of the Live Events Coalition. “Our goal is to get Congress to take some action, to recognize us as an industry that is in trouble by no fault of our own, and to get the aid in place that we need to help us get to the other side.”

ARIA, for example, has had to furlough or lay off about 90% of its workforce, as it faced more cancellations in 2020 than the previous eight years of business combined.

“We’re a small business,” said Assistant General Manager Kelly Preslicka, “and if you compound this by how many other businesses are related to the live events industry, it’s huge. It’s really huge.”

Unlike the hospitality and travel industries which have well-organized lobbying groups, people in the live events industry realized how “under the radar” they really were and decided to form LEC to bring some attention. They’ve held similar empty events with 48 tables in Los Angeles, on the National Mall in Washington DC, and in New York’s Times Square.

For the one-hour empty event in the North Loop, ARIA donated its space, a lighting company provided equipment, and several independent people including unemployed Guthrie Theater workers provided labor.

“We’re not asking to be made whole because we know they can’t do that,” said Porter. “But we’re asking for a bridge to help us get to the other side.”

By Mike Binkley, North Loop Neighborhood Association

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