SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California could lose big events to other states as it’s now the only state that is not open for conventions or other big meetings.
That leaves businesses bracing for a rough year ahead, not knowing when those tourism dollars will come back. Curbing those conventions could cost Sacramento billions of dollars.
“It’s been hard, honestly, real hard,” said Mei Li.
Li works at Osaka Sushi in downtown Sacramento. She takes the phone orders and boxes up the food, but she’s not sure how much longer they’ll even be in business.
“Right now there are family members, some of us, working without pay,” said Li.
The pandemic is already taking a toll, but without big events, downtown business is dwindling. A massive renovation at the newly-named SAFE Credit Union Convention Center could be for naught, at least once it opens in the coming months because conventions are a no-go.
“The Anime Convention gives us so much business,” said Ruby Raymond.
Raymond is a hostess at Tequila Museo Mayahuel, where convention traffic is a shot in the arm every year.
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“I have competitors across the country that are looking at California and the conventions and meetings that are on the books and trying to figure out a way to take them from the cities in California,” said Mike Testa, CEO of Visit Sacramento.
Testa says the community will feel the ripple effect for years to come, pointing out hundreds of jobs cut at the Hyatt and the Westin, which announced it’s closed until after the first of the year.
“You may think L.A. and San Diego are the big tourism drivers for California, but the region in Sacramento is a $3 billion industry for tourism so the losses are significant,” said Testa.
Restaurants have reported a city-wide convention increasing business by $40,000 over a three-day period.
“This place, it just gets packed. The reservations are out the door. The waitlist just gets packed when that’s open, we need it back,” said Raymond.
Li says convention traffic makes up 80% of her business.
“We’re probably not going to be able to make it. I mean, we’re struggling now without those conventions,” said Li.
Testa says while industry officials understand public health taking priority, they’re urging elected officials to come up with a plan to reopen big events.
Testa points out while restaurants can operate at lower capacity, so can large convention centers. Right now, convention centers are not able to give potential customers a definitive answer, considering big events are part of the last phase of reopening in California.