MENTOR, Ohio (WOIO) - Gov. Mike DeWine is placing the blame on weddings and funerals for the rise in COVID-19 cases in Ohio.
But, some venues in Northeast Ohio, including the LaMalfa event center of Mentor, call his finger-pointing “unfair.”
This year has been more than devastating to the wedding industry, and the family-run business of 53 years has felt the effects.
Before the pandemic, LaMalfa was stacked with weddings and events.
Now, their massive ballrooms are virtually empty.
But for those brides and grooms still tieing the knot here, LaMalfa is taking all the precautions they can while going above and beyond the state mandates.
“We’ve lost over $1.5 million worth of business and it’s crippling us,” Owner Marty LaMalfa said.
This has been a heartbreaking blow to his Wyndam Hotel and LaMalfa banquet halls.
He said they host at least 120 weddings and about 250 events each year.
But, the pandemic has turned this lively hall into a virtual ghost town after more than half of his parties canceled.
LaMalfa said, “it would’ve been our strongest year in 49 years... It’d be an understatement to tell you it’s quite challenging, quite nerve-wracking."
Gov. DeWine expressed his frustration with rising COVID-19 cases throughout the state, placing the blame on weddings and funerals.
He wasn’t point his finger directly at those events happening in Northeast Ohio, but in other parts of the state where COVID-19 rates are escalating.
“We need to reconsider going to parties, weddings, funerals...” Gov. DeWine said during Thursday’s press conference.
But LaMalfa said it’s unfair blame placed on an industry already enduring so much loss.
“He made a decision yesterday that the hotspots are wedding facilities like ours, or large gatherings at homes. But then again, he increased the attendance at the football stadium," LaMalfa said.
For the couples still celebrating their nuptials, there are big changes, including hand sanitizer, masks, and increased social distance, and decreased maximum capacity.
A single ballroom normally holds 250 guests, but now maxes out around 160.
Tables now seat only about six people instead of the usual 10.
Couples and their guests will also be spaced out throughout the ballroom and bars.
“At first, we thought we’d have to put our ‘COVID police hat’ on and police people. But, we find more people are understanding on the mandates, so they’re arriving with masks on and they’re staying six feet apart," LaMalfa said.
He believes it could take years for the industry to come back, especially with so few pandemic guidelines or lifelines for hospitality.
But more than anything, he feels sorry for his clients.
“As much as we’re postponing a wedding or a ceremony, we’re also postponing their lives,” LaMalfa said.
While LaMalfa is holding a wedding reception and another event here tonight, for the most part, they said their halls will be empty for the rest of the year.