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Event rental companies struggle with cancellations

(WCAX)
Published: May. 27, 2020 at 2:49 PM EDT
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Summer is usually filled with large gatherings and events but not this year with the coronavirus outbreak. Our Ike Bendavid takes a look at the trickle-down effect as event rental companies struggle to survive.

Mike Lubas at Vermont Tent says 2020 was going to be their year.

"Looking at a banner year, looking at a record year," Lubas said.

Then the coronavirus hit.

"And the rug just got pulled out from under us," Lubas said.

The event rental company supplies tents for all sorts of events, like festivals on the waterfront, graduations and weddings. During the summer they are usually working nonstop.

"Now, we are just doing a couple tents a day for restaurant work," Lubas said.

On Wednesday, crews from Vermont Tent were working at the Jericho Cafe and Tavern. With outdoor seating now approved under state guidelines, Lubas says they have gotten a few calls to put up tents at restaurants but that's not enough to make up for a full summer. He says they are looking at a $3 million loss in the next three months.

"Survival mode isn't great," he said. "We are probably going to lose 80-90 percent of our revenue this year."

And usually, at those events, there's food.

"All the events at the fairgrounds canceled, corporate events, can't have a lot of people," said Rick Leblanc, who owns Rick's Grill in Milton.

Leblanc says he is usually nonstop busy with catering in the summer, but right now all 40 events he was set to cater are all canceled.

He hopes when things go back to normal the phone will ring.

"I been doing this a long time and I know a lot of companies will be calling back as soon as we can have events," Leblanc said.

And he is even helping others who are in a similar position, letting friends set up their fair food carts in the parking lot of Rick's Grill.

"It had an excellent response and people are enjoying it," Leblanc said.

Back in Jericho, Lubas says they received some help from PPP but he is not sure if they are going to get any more from the stimulus package, as it's not clear what industry they fall under.

"We don't have that lobbying power that the farmers do or the hospitality groups do," Lubas said. "The event rental industry in Vermont is the backbone of special events and weddings and tourism and they need to help us."

Despite the massive losses, Lubas hopes to survive the summer. His focus now is making it to next May.

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