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Tallahassee event venues forced to scale-down, lessen exposure risk of COVID-19

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 17:40:06-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Being around a big crowd is a risk some are willing to take. One industry feeling the hit from a lack of crowds is event venues.

The owners of Old Willis Dairy say they went from being booked every weekend to nothing.

With more people getting a look at just how the coronavirus can impact a large gathering, those slow weekends are likely to stay around just a little bit longer.

"It took the wind out of our sail," said Pepar Roper, the owner of Old Willis Dairy. "You're on a roll, things are going great, and then just a screeching halt. It was a rude awakening."

As COVID-19 spread through the community work events, birthday parties, and even weddings had to take a backseat to the pandemic.

Old Willis Dairy took a direct hit.

"We can't do curbside weddings," Roper said.

By chance, one couple couldn't give up their wedding day and Old Willis Dairy was there to make it happen.

"We planned for about a year," said LaVander Thomas. "Then, maybe about a week in advance, we started getting calls from people saying, 'this virus is going around, do you still want to have it?'"

LaVander Thomas and Jabari Grayson decided to drop their plans to get married in Central Florida, instead, staying in Tallahassee.

"It was us, my coworker, Lauren the photographer, and Mrs. Pepar who owns the property," Grayson said.

The newlyweds say they're happy with their decision to move forward.

"On your wedding day, that's your day to be selfish," said Grayson. "What we like about each other is that we thought of the grand scheme and keeping everyone safe."

When they took a look at a new dashboard showing just how widespread the virus can be, it was just more reassurance.

Georgia Tech released a map predicting the exposure risk of COVID-19 at events.

The map is broken down by county and predicts your exposure risk level of attending an event given the event size, location, and COVID-19 case counts in each area.

The risk level is the estimated chance that at least one COVID-19 positive person will be present at a gathering.

"You see people going out and eating at restaurants and going to parties and we're like, 'Are we the crazy ones for staying at home,'" Thomas said. "But this shows we're not missing out on anything."

At Old Willis Dairy, there are plenty of dates booked for wedding receptions later this year.

Pepar Roper says there's plenty of indoor and outdoor space to social distance plus they have masks and sanitizer ready for any group.