A new wedding and event venue recently opened in Riverside. Then the pandemic hit.
Alyssa June Key is a 41-year-old historic renovator who lives in Lakewood, near San Marco.
About two years ago she bought what is now Five Points Chapel & Event Hall, a historic church built in the 1930s, on the corner of Gilmore and Margaret Streets.
Her initial idea was to turn it into an Airbnb.
“But the more that I started to do the planning, the more that people were asking me if they could have events there,” she said. Then she realized a wedding and event venue might actually be more lucrative, and would definitely be more fun for her.
“I love weddings and events and just seeing people congregate into a building and having a great time,” she said.
The venue officially opened its doors about two weeks after the coronavirus arrived in Northeast Florida.
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So far they’ve had a handful of social distance events.
“There have been photoshoots there. There have been a couple of celebrations of life in there, where people are seated far apart. So we’ve tried to do things by the book, but still allow people to live out parts of life that need to be lived in the process,” Key explained.
But so far there have been no weddings, the bulk of what the venue’s business would be. No one has booked a wedding until next year.
“They are justifiably concerned about their 80-year-old grandmother coming to their wedding and catching this virus,” she said.
Although, Key did say someone reached out recently looking to host a last minute mid-July wedding for around 100 guests. But, out of an abundance of caution, she turned it down.
“So it’s hard. On the business side I’m kind of just swallowing the harsh pill and running with it because that’s really all you can do at this point and just cross your fingers and toes and hope that this all ends soon and then everyone can just get back to celebrating,” she said.
Despite everything, Key is certain the business will survive.
“Our overhead is pretty low. And luckily, my lenders are very gracious,” she said.
But the economic reality of the situation is still hard to bear.
“The difference between our projections versus what’s actually coming, it’s a little painful. It’s a little sorrowful, but at the same time, you kind of just roll with the punches,” she said.
Meanwhile, Key is left worrying what a second wave of coronavirus infections could mean for the wedding and events industry as she sits on the sidelines and waits for conditions to improve.
Brendan Rivers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.