SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) – In a week, Sonoma County’s ban on large gatherings will expire but the tourism industry still struggling from lost revenue.
“In January, I lost $65,000 in banquets,” Gerard Giudice said.
That’s $65,000 Gerard Giudice, co-owner of Sally Tomatoes and SOMO Events in Rohnert Park, lost after Sonoma County issued a health order banning large gatherings indoors.
“All the banquets canceled even those below 50 people not because they were illegal but because of the health order people were scared,” Giudice said.
The health mandate is set to expire on February 11.
County health officers credit strict health orders in helping reduce the county’s COVID case rate.
But Giudice, one of the dozens of business owners, tried to make up for lost time.
Claudia Vecchio, CEO of Sonoma County tourism sent a survey to about 3,000 local businesses asking about the impact of the county’s health order.
“Of those 60 responded, we did find that the immediate impact was somewhat north of $6-million dollars. business loss as it relates to groups that already booked and had to cancel and other people who have canceled in the future because of that order,” Vecchio said.
Sonoma County health officials loosened the health order last month due to declining COVID cases but nothing changed for the larger tourism industry.
Vecchio says the county’s public health officer has been guiding local businesses to operate safely but it’s not just the loss in business that’s challenging, Giudice says it’s trying to help employees survive.
“These are people who are working two jobs and there is no relief and there is no extra bonus for unemployment and we had to let go of one position and it broke my heart because how are these people going to put food on the table,” Giudice said.
“The hope is that this latest round of health orders that slow down progress will kind of get cleaned up over this spring and summer and that will be basically three years to get back to pre-pandemic levels,” Robert Eyler said.
Robert Eyler, professor of economics at Sonoma State University, says it’s going to be all about the dollars spent.
“So one of the things the travel industry is concerned about is that if there’s a threat of this happening again, will people book as many weddings? Will they book as many events, conferences? Those are large ticket items in terms of filling hotel rooms, filling restaurants, ordering catering and having this sort of ripple effect among a bunch of different industries when one event takes place,” Eyler said.
In the meantime, businesses looking forward to next’s week’s expiration date.
“We have Valentine’s Day thankfully coming after this health mandate lifts and I think that’s going to be a good weekend in Sonoma County. What better place to spend valentine’s day at a lovely winery,” Vecchio said.