Halloween Weekend Turnout Helping Live Event Industry's Pandemic Recovery

The pandemic hit the live event industry, which employs an estimated 12 million people nationally, much harder than some others

NBC Universal, Inc.

After a year and a half of restrictions due to the pandemic, Halloween is back, especially for those visiting The Merrow in Hillcrest Saturday night.

“The energy is back and it's exciting,” said owner Paul Smith.

The Merrow’s performance of “Hillcrest’s Variety Pack Halloween Edition” brought out costumes, smiles and cheers as San Diego’s live event industry continues to recover from pandemic losses.

The live event industry was one of the first to shut down when the pandemic started and one of the last to welcome crowds during California’s reopening -- the pandemic forcing thousands of event cancellations locally, from small concerts to San Diego’s 2020 Comic-Con International.

Smith’s bar and live music venue, along with thousands of others statewide, fully reopened on June 15 after 15 months of repeated closures.

He told NBC 7 things have mostly returned to normal and his sales are actually higher now compared to pre-pandemic.

“Initial projections show that we're probably doing better by about 20 to 30% which is great,” he said. “If I can just keep what we're doing right now going…I'd be happy with that.”

But he said some signs of the pandemic still linger.

“There is still I think a lot of people that come out that they don't actually want to be indoors. They still want to remain outdoors -- they feel safer,” he said.

That’s why he said a parking lot-turned outdoor bar and dining area feet from his business’ front door has saved it, especially amid staffing shortages and supply chain issues his business and so many others are feeling the effects of.

“It’s provided us with added revenue and space,” he said. “I feel fortunate that we've managed to find a niche in this recovery that we're benefiting from.”

Smith and the performers at The Merrow said the business’ stage is helping all of them get back on their feet and that the struggle has made their comeback even sweeter.

“COVID gave us an insight on what we're missing,” said Marvin, the show’s promoter. “Because when everything was on pause, it was just like, this is what my life is about and this is what I was missing. It's like that hole that needed to be patched up again.”

Smith said his venue is fully booked with performances for the month of November and he hopes he’ll eventually be able to make the outdoor space a permanent fixture of his business.

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