With the state rolling back restrictions on conferences and trade shows, a poll released May 6 by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce found two-thirds of business owners said they’re ready to return to in-person events.
Sixty-six percent said they’re ready to “immediately” attend such an event, the poll found. Of the remaining third, 22% said they’d be comfortable going to such an event in the next two to three months, and the remaining 12% said they needed more time–anywhere from four months to a year.
The online survey garnered 100 total responses, according to the NJ Chamber.
The poll found that nearly 59% said they’d want mask requirements in place, while nearly 51% said they would need to see social distancing guidelines, and another 39% said they’d hope for temperature and health checks for all attendees.
“There is no doubt business people want to bring human interaction back to the workplace, so you can say that Gov. Murphy’s lifting of restrictions has come at the right time,” Tom Bracken, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer, said in a Thursday press release.
“Virtual technology has served the business community well during the pandemic, but our members are saying it is once again time to be able to look customers and colleagues in the eye without the aid of a camera lens,” he added.
As part of the reopening measures Gov. Phil Murphy announced May 3, events overseen by businesses – conferences, expos or trade shows – are capped at 250 people. But, Murphy noted, that’s 250 per room, granting event organizers a great deal of flexibility.
“It’s 250 people per room, that’s an important point,” the governor said on Monday, highlighting Atlantic City hotels with “massive floor space” and fixed-seating venues with loosening capacity restrictions, such as Harrah’s and Ocean Casino Resort.
“This means that the events that we all associate with summer, from fireworks displays to parades to the State Fair, can all go forward, as long as attendees are keeping 6 feet of distance,” the governor said. “And should the [Centers for Disease Control] revise its 6-foot distancing guidance, we will revise our requirement accordingly.”
Several local officials in Atlantic City had indeed pressed Murphy a week ago on April 30 to roll back restrictions on conferences, for venues such as at the 500,000-square-foot Atlantic City Convention Center and the city’s casino-hotels with massive floor space.
The closure of indoor events and the limitations on attendees had been devastating for the events industry, according to many executives. In-person closures and restrictions have slammed the casino industry and made the city’s unemployment among the highest in the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s now more important than ever that we ease indoor capacity restrictions to allow our properties to resume indoor meetings and conferences,” the Casino Association of New Jersey – the trade group for the state’s nine casinos – said in a written statement last month. “We are prepared and ready to safely bring back conventions and meetings with the same rigorous health and safety protocols we have been employing since our reopening last July.”
Larry Sieg, who heads Meet AC which operates the convention center, said that the big moneymaker events are during the winter, and can draw draws out tens of thousands of attendees between the late fall and early spring.