By Skylar Dubelko
When COVID-19 reached the United States earlier this year, Shoreby Club in Bratenahl reached out to every bride who had planned a 2020 wedding at the venue.
“We asked them if they wanted to keep their date or reschedule for 2021, and we didn’t book any new events until all of our brides and bigger events with deposits down got the opportunity to reschedule,” Banquet Manager Cassandra Mendenhall explains. “After we did that, we filled in our calendar for 2021. Almost every date we had originally booked that moved was filled in with a smaller event.”
Although weekends remained booked, it wasn’t quite business as usual at Shoreby Club throughout the ongoing pandemic. The venue’s tent capacity went down from 200 to 125, and guests and staff alike were forced to adjust to the new normal – social distancing, face coverings and constant sanitation.
Mendenhall says there has been a bit of dithering from guests when it comes to mask compliance, but otherwise they have taken the changes in stride.
“The masks are always a little bit of a push back – nobody wants to wear the mask – but honestly, for the most part we haven’t had too much,” Mendenhall says. “People are trying to make it their new normal and get on with their lives and still be able to celebrate different events.”
Mendenhall describes Shoreby Club as having a “historic feel” and the area’s “best lakefront view.” She says she has enjoyed the smaller, more intimate vibe that has become commonplace in 2020. While the venue has not hosted any bar, bat or b’nai mitzvahs this year, Mendenhall says she has seen a rise in Jewish weddings at the mansion.
“I think people have been a lot more creative in what they’re doing now and it’s been really fun to see,” Mendenhall says. She used the hora as one example.
“We had one wedding that was super creative and got pool noodles and cut them to socially distance and put handles on them,” Mendenhall says. “Everybody held a handle on a pool noodle, so everybody was spaced out, socially distanced, still wore their masks, but they got to do their special dance still.”
Shoreby Club offered that solution to other events, and according to Mendenhall, did the hora with pool noodles multiple times this year.
“We’ve had a couple of weddings that have marked off spaces on the dance floor,” Mendenhall says. “So one person or a couple can dance in that space and stay socially distant from everyone.”
Shoreby Club was not the only Northeast Ohio celebration venue that had to
improvise this year. For Walden in Aurora, bar, bat and b’nai mitzvahs were also moved to next year. Larger weddings the venue had on its books were either scaled down or rescheduled, but the venue, which boasts many outdoor spaces, accommodated smaller weddings.
“Our business wasn’t as affected as many other places because we had the space to social distance,” says Managing Partner Robert Rosencrans. “If someone felt uncomfortable, they postponed it to next year.”
Rosencrans says most Saturdays in 2021 are booked, but plenty of Fridays, Sundays and weekdays are still available.
Describing Walden as a venue that embraces nature and leans towards outdoor celebrations, he says it is the opposite of the “boxy reception facility that most places are.”
“That’s really what makes us different,” Rosencrans adds.
He said most clients took COVID-19 limitations for granted and were understanding if and when they had to modify their event.
“But they still celebrated and that was what was beautiful,” Rosencrans says. “I think people looked at us as comforting because of our hospitality attitude and the way we treat people, and I think that, at the end of the day, that’s why we’ve thrived even in the worst of times, because people felt
comfortable with how we would operate under these trying times.”
And despite the unknown time frame for the pandemic and what that means for future events, venues are also preparing for the day when the pandemic eases up. Driftwood Restaurants and Catering President Christopher Hodgson says he does not think the current necessary COVID-19 guidelines will be around a year from now. The company recently purchased Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights from founder and president Harlan Diamond, who sold it after running the business for 60 years.
“As we continue to see things loosen up, people will get back to their normal event life sooner rather than later,” Hodgson says.
Due to Landerhaven’s size, Hodgson says the venue has been able to accommodate “well thought-out weddings without guests having to sacrifice things like dance floors or guests,” while following Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s guidelines to a tee.
“Many venues have struggled because they can’t accommodate the 300 guests in a safe manner – we haven’t had that issue because of all the different spaces and size of Landerhaven,” Hodgson explains.
He notes the venue’s indoor and outdoor spaces are about to be completely renovated and even went as far as to say, when people come back to Landerhaven, they will not recognize the well-known location.
“We are fortunate enough that, even during these difficult times of socially distancing, we have rooms large enough to keep guests safe and properly distanced,” Hodgson adds. “One of our greatest focuses is on service – elevating the level of service that guests receive in the event industry.”