Quinceañera tries to recover after the COVID-19 lockdown in San Diego

The royal blue beaded tulle dress that Alexis Osuna planned to wear for her 15th birthday – her striped outfit – has been hanging in her wardrobe for about a year. The teen’s party has been canceled due to restrictions on large gatherings due to the coronavirus.

I recently took it out and dressed it up to get into the white limousine I took to celebrate her sixteenth birthday on June 5, about a week before her sixteenth birthday.

His family set up the event for family and close friends in the Encanto VFW Room.

“I’m excited. It was hard to wait, but it also made me more excited,” he said, adjusting the tulle before entering the big with his servants and young men in tan suits, blue ties, and sunglasses.

Across the San Diego area, hundreds of family celebrations — such as weddings, graduations and memorial events — have been postponed because pandemic precautions have limited public gatherings to slow the spread of the virus.

Not only did this affect families who had hoped to celebrate important accomplishments, but it was a huge blow to the many businesses dedicated to organizing, planning and hosting those meetings.

Unlike restaurants and retail stores, which during the pandemic received periodic exceptions that allowed them to operate partially, event business models relied on public meetings, and thus did not get such benefits early enough to allow some of them to survive, business owners said.

Some ballrooms and businesses are living with modified small events as meeting restrictions have been relaxed. The state issued some rules for the events.

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But other companies have decided to close their doors for good.

Alexis Osuna performs a waltz with his room on June 5 at Encanto VVFW.

(Nance E. Lewis/for the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Elvia Pliego said she had to close National City’s Legendary Hall in January because she couldn’t pay rent after several events at the venue were canceled.

The family-run party hall has been in operation for three years. It was a full service salon offering decor, food, music and photo booth.

Bleijo tried to negotiate with the building’s owners to pay the rent once he could organize events again, he said, but the family was evicted from the property.

The family stores all of their party supplies in a warehouse and in their Chula Vista apartment.

“I cry every day,” Bligo said.

Pliego was able to decorate the event space for Osuna quinceañera and provided food for the event.

She covered the fence that surrounded the yard with glitter fabric to give the appearance that the party was inside a room. He said Osuna’s family was flexible with the situation and allowed him to keep his contract, but the other families were not understanding.

“The most important thing for me is to make these young women’s dreams come true,” said Bligo. “I am determined to fulfill all the commitments I have made.”

Elvia Pliego catering with party service staff during Alexis Osuna's 16th birthday.

Elvia Pliego catering with party service staff during Alexis Osuna’s 16th birthday. Pliego’s business has also struggled during the pandemic and had to shut down due to low income.

(Nance E. Lewis/for the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Kristina Osuna, Alexis’ mother, said she felt it was important to organize the party for her daughter, because Quinceanera is such a milestone. He didn’t want to give up the party despite the pandemic.

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It is an ancient cultural tradition very popular among families in Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States, which consists of celebrating when a girl turns 15, often in elaborate dresses, dances with her father and a feast in church.

Anna Villalobos, co-owner of fashion store Lilly’s Creations in Chula Vista, said she was apprehensive in the summer of 2020, when she realized the pandemic wasn’t going away any time soon. She said she closed her clothing store in September to cut operating costs and because they didn’t sell any merchandise.

But it reopened in January, and little by little the business rebounded, but instead of taking orders a year ago, many families throw last minute parties.

Villalobos said it was hard to see his friends and others in the sector suffer.

“Some people did and some didn’t,” Villalobos said. “Hopefully we can survive this hurricane. There were days when it was very frustrating and there was no telling what was going to happen. But now… we are in the shop working again.”

Companies involved in events can apply for help with the coronavirus. Ricardo Villa, president and CEO, said the San Diego County Chamber of Commerce has worked with nearly 50 concert halls and event companies to obtain grants and loans and helped some restructure their business models to keep their doors open.

He said many of these companies have struggled during the pandemic because they were unable to operate normally and did not have operational guidance until later in the pandemic.

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“Most of the companies were able to operate at some level, but they literally had to shut down for 13 months,” he said.

The room helped banquet halls with kitchens obtain permits to operate as restaurants, he said, and others chose to rent out their space to nearby breweries that needed more outdoor space.

The chamber also provided government officials with recommendations on guidelines for reopening businesses on occasions.

Although the state issued some guidance in April 2021, for some it was a bit late.

Roger Chan permanently closed Crystal Place Concert Hall in December because he could no longer pay rent; He had no income. He said he was able to get loans and grants, but that wasn’t enough to keep the doors open.

The banquet hall, located near El Cerrito, was a popular venue for hosting quinceañera parties, fundraisers, weddings and birthdays, with a capacity of 450 people. It was a full service place, providing decor, DJ and catering services.

Chan said the hall was for 50 weddings in 2021, so he’s in the process of returning deposits to families. He said the decision to close the room was not easy.

“We couldn’t keep doing that,” he said. “A pandemic was not something anyone could plan for.”

Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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