Many businesses have faced financial hardships during the COVID-19 crisis, especially those in the service industry like bars, restaurants and hair salons.
One of the biggest players in the service industry being hit right hard now are wedding and event vendors.
Jim and Jennifer Johannessen, owners of the Bradford Barn event venue on the 9th Line, are facing challenges and uncertainty as the government continues to extend measures preventing large gatherings.
Ninety-nine percent of their business comes from wedding events, which are naturally large family affairs, and are booked from mid May to November. In the future they plan to open up to more corporate events, but for now their focus is on weddings.
Since opening in 2017, they have seen a steady growth in business, with 20 weddings booked in their first year, 29 in 2018, and 32 in 2019. This year, they were on track for their best season yet with 48 weddings booked, but thanks to COVID-19, that won’t be the case.
So far they have had many clients postpone their weddings until 2021, with a few clients cancelling all together.
“There’s a big difference between the word cancel and postpone,” explained Jennifer, who right now is trying to keep clients from cancelling by offering alternative dates in 2021.
“If you had to give back 48 deposits of $3,000-5,000 each, that business is not going to last,” she explained.
Unfortunately, they are only able to offer their 2020 couples the option of Friday or Sunday dates in the 2021 season, which have left some clients disappointed.
Jennifer said they are not financially able to push their current clients into Saturday dates in 2021, as they need to keep space open for new clients.
“You can’t expect a business to run for two years on one year’s worth of revenue, so we have to keep our premium dates open and available to new clients to keep the business viable,” she explained.
She sympathized with the couples who have had to rebook into unfavourable dates.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow and I understand, some of these people have been planning for this for two years or dreaming about this since they were 16,” she explained. “I have full empathy toward their position and not wanting to take a Friday or Sunday booking when they wanted a Saturday.”
The Johannessens are doing everything they possibly can to keep their venue up and running.
The couple are passionate about the work they do, and attend every single event of the season to ensure they are carried out to perfection. Jim, who is also in the barn's house band, Stable Polarity, plays at many of the weddings and musical events throughout the year as well.
She and Jim even got married themselves at the Bradford Barn, before it was ever an event venue, back in 1993.
The Johannessens are doing their best to give clients more options for their event by offering 'pop-up weddings' throughout the 2020 wedding season.
Pop-up weddings will allow clients to book the facility for their nuptials, with up to 20 guests (pending government lifting gathering restrictions), for an outdoor celebration. Couples book the venue for $3,700, and have access to the grounds from 4 to 8 p.m. for their ceremony and photos, with the option to add on catering services.
It would be an option available to clients any day of the week from June 5 to July 10, Sundays - Thursdays from July 10- Aug. 16., and Monday - Thursdays from Aug. 17 - Oct. 1.
"They can still come and have the ceremony with the beautiful pictures of the barn and the gardens," she said, noting it would be an easy way to celebrate outside with physical distancing measures still in place.
"We're trying to keep it affordable, but at the same time hopefully create some more revenue for the barn and keep everything rolling."