Conferences, conventions, events fully reopening in Atlantic City

Daniel J. Munoz//May 26, 2021

Conferences, conventions, events fully reopening in Atlantic City

Daniel J. Munoz//May 26, 2021

The sprawling Atlantic City Convention Center is fully reopening June 4, as is the nearby Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, following the latest round of COVID-19 business restrictions Gov. Phil Murphy said he is lifting.

Other gambling establishments across Atlantic City are also rolling back their own restrictions for in-person events.

As part of these latest reopenings as the pandemic winds down, the indoor mask mandate and 6-foot social distancing rule will be lifted May 28, with exceptions for child care centers, hospitals and public transit.

Then on June 4, the indoor gathering limit will be lifted. The 250-person indoor gathering limit for political events, weddings, funerals, memorial services, performances, and catered and commercial events will no longer be in effect.

And the 30% capacity for large indoor venues will be scrapped, meaning that – according to Murphy – “if the [New Jersey] Devils had a game on June 4, could they sell out? and the answer is yes.”

Larry Sieg, president and chief executive officer of Meet AC.

“Atlantic City is thrilled all indoor gathering limits, specific to meetings, conventions and events has been lifted,” reads a May 26 statement from Larry Sieg, head of Meet AC, which operates the 500,000 square-foot convention center, and the nearby Boardwalk Hall, which hosts concerts and live performances.

“This will allow us to continue to move our destination forward while growing the meetings and conventions market,” he continued.

In the immediate term, the “Import Expo” on June 13 is expected to host just over 2,000 attendees and will be the convention center’s first event since March 2020 when pandemic closures began.

But the convention center’s biggest money-makers are between the late fall and early spring when cold weather shuts down summer tourism.

The Atlantic City Classic Car Show and Auction is scheduled for February next year and is expected to draw 30,000 attendees.The New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey League of Municipalities are scheduled to have their annual conventions at the center this November, according to the Meet AC calendar; both events typically bring tens of thousands of attendees.

“Our clients are ready to get back to business and we look forward to their return to Atlantic City,” Sieg added.

Atlantic City Convention Center. - MEET AC
The Atlantic City Convention Center. – MEET AC

A poll this month by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce found that two-thirds of business owners said they were ready to return to in-person events, such as conferences, expos and trade shows.

Many of the city’s large casinos – there are nine altogether – have conference and event spaces, such as Harrah’s and Hard Rock.

Hard Rock said it’s putting out a summer concert schedule that will include full capacity shows, and food and beverage offerings.

Ocean Casino Resort said it will operate at full capacity starting this May 28. Fully vaccinated guests do not need to wear masks, but unvaccinated guests are “strongly encouraged” to wear a face covering, a spokesperson said in an email. Ocean said that come June 4, it will begin rolling out its summer entertainment line-up at 100% capacity.

And while restrictions on casinos are being lifted, including the mask requirement and 6-foot social distancing, it is not immediately clear how the nine brick and mortar establishments in Atlantic City will move forward, and whether they would keep those restrictions in place.

Because of casino closures and reduced capacity, the casinos had to rely solely on online and mobile gambling as a lifeboat to stay afloat, which meant that the ancillary dining, entertainment, event, hotel and hospitality industries were pummeled for much of the pandemic.