Exhibition and conference centres in England may now host business meetings and events for up to 30, according to updated visitor economy guidance released by the Government, 4 August.
All venues that have small, separate and directly accessible meeting facilities as part of its site may host events so long as social distancing can be maintained, different groups can be kept separate, and the venue can demonstrate it has followed the Covid-19 guidance. Read the Meetings Industry Association’s guidance here.
Previously, exhibition and conference centres were specifically not permitted to run any events at all, with the exception of venue tours for prospective clients (for groups of up to 30). Confusingly, these tours are now banned until 15 August, but small events for up to 30 are permitted so long as there is direct access to the smaller meeting spaces and the above criteria is met.
It means that any permitted venue can now run events for up to 30 people so long as the Covid-secure guidance is adhered to. This includes academic venues, which may use their lecture theatres and classrooms for external events for up to 30.
In another change to the rules, basic catering may also now be provided at these small events, with venues and organisers needing to follow the same guidance issued for bars, pubs and takeaway services. Pre-packaged food is also advised.
The updated guidance also notes banqueting and private dining events should not currently take place in any venue.
Receptions, award ceremonies, filming, fashion shows, product launches, and teambuilding exercises are not permitted to take place until 1 October, on the condition that the Covid-19 virus is deemed under control.
All events happening after 1 October will need to be risk assessed and follow the AEO’s All Secure Standard, which can be read here.
Venues may also need to consider mitigations depending on specific aspects of their events, such as performances, the guidance adds.
Social distancing concerns
However, the guidance reinforces the rule that events should operate at a capacity allowing for compliance with social distancing of 2m, or 1m with mitigations.
It notes that venues should consider the social distancing equivalent to a density of 10sqm per person. This causes potential problems for some venues and organisers, which would find it uneconomical to run an event, or indeed reopen in the first place, on account of the available size. The update suggests this criterion could be reassessed after the pilot events have taken place, but no details have been provided beyond that they will happen only after 15 August
Details on whether face masks need to be worn during business events and meetings is yet to be confirmed.