As he was taking care of paperwork and applications for state financial assistance in his Frederick office Tuesday, Brian Remsberg was blunt about the current state of his tent/party rental company.
“Business has come to a screeching halt,” said Remsberg, owner of US Event Structures.
Remsberg is not alone. Multiple owners of tent/party equipment rental companies said this week the coronavirus and state directives prohibiting large gatherings has hurt business, as weddings, parties and other gatherings have been canceled or postponed in the coming months.
Dominique Mouton, co-owner of Maryland Event Rentals, said with warmer weather coming, any loss of business hurts because they need to make all of their income over eight months and pay insurance, payroll and other expenses in the winter season.
“If we start too late, in July or August or September … am I going to have enough funds to make it through winter and make it through to next year?” Mouton said.
Robyn Howlett, co-owner of Grand Event Rentals in Frederick, said business has been “dead in the water” besides some emergency tents they set up at a local hospital.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, she had about 25 employees. Now, she’s down to six, and she and co-owner Steve Hogue are working without pay.
Howlett emphasized she didn’t blame anyone for the lack of business — but in 26 years of event planning, she’s never seen anything like the coronavirus’ impact on her work.
“People are scared, and with good reason, and they don’t want to have events, which we understand,” Howlett said. “But that’s our business … we can’t survive with no business.”
She, Remsberg and Mouton have all applied for assistance from either the Maryland Department of Commerce’s loan or grant programs. Last month, Department of Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz announced small businesses with 50 employees or less could apply for up to $10,000 in grant funding or up to $50,000 in loans, with a zero percent interest rate for up to a year.
They also have all either started or have put bids out to install tents for coronavirus testing and for medical personnel.
Remsberg said his staff assembled some tents for testing at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughter in Norfolk, Virginia.
“We don’t wish this, but if the situation got worse, it could meet a larger portion of the gap, but its’ not normally going to make up what we usually make,” he said of work like that in Virginia.
Remsberg added his company is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, as April and May are some of the busiest months of the year. Many of his 14 full-time employees have started using two weeks of sick leave, as allowed by federal guidelines, but it’s unclear what lies ahead, he said.
Nick Clabaugh, who is based in Walkersville, runs a smaller operation. At most, he might have four or five people, including himself, working on projects across the region.
He acknowledged his company, Atlantic Tent Rentals, doesn’t have much of the overhead costs larger companies in the area might have.
But he still estimated he could lose up to $30,000 of business in the next few months, as parties, graduations and other events have been canceled or postponed.
“I just wish it was over sooner than later, that’s basically what it comes down to,” Clabaugh said of the coronavirus’ impac. “We just want to get this thing under control, so things are back to normal.”