London businesses hope to capitalize on Canadian Country Music Week

With Canadian Country Music Week in town, London hotel businesses are gearing up for a busy weekend and a rare chance to enjoy a major event in a year marked by pandemic restrictions.

This year’s event begins Friday night and ends with the Canadian Country Music Awards Monday night at Budweiser Gardens.

The city is closing several streets around the gardens on Saturday to accommodate crowds, while the priority for many local businesses is how to get them through their front doors.

“We have to be a little creative”

The DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in London hopes to fill its restaurant this weekend, while complying with the province’s COVID-19 regulations. While some staff will wear cowboy hats, most guests will wear sports bracelets, indicating proof of immunization status.

“We have to be a little creative,” said managing director Sumit Bhatia. “If we keep checking every time, there will be a huge queue.”

Bhatia estimates that around 95 percent of guests have complied with the bracelet system so far, and the remaining five percent have shared their immunization status with hotel staff.

Other downtown hotels are nearing capacity as the weekend approaches.

“There are people coming from the east, from the west, there are people coming from Nashville,” said Dave Bartlam, director of sales and marketing at the Delta Hotel London Armories.

The Delta only has a handful of vacant rooms this weekend, Bartlam said, far from the norm during the pandemic.

“It is certainly much needed in our industry,” he said. “And I know they’ll be in town spending the money.”

“Great to see the city alive again”

Local restaurants book country concerts and host special events to mark Canadian Country Music Week.

“We have a lot of bookings coming up,” said Alysia Lewis, community partnerships manager at Shoeless Joe’s Sports Grill. “We have a lot of staff… we just want to be ready. ”

Shoeless Joe’s, located across from Budweiser Gardens, is planning a 250-person event for the awards volunteers on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Palasad SocialBowl hopes to draw crowds east of the city center.

It hosts live music all weekend long, including the Washboard Union, Aaron Goodvin, Nice Horse and The Abrams, as well as the Sadies on Sunday nights.

“It’s great to see the city alive again,” said Marty Novak, director of operations at Palasad SocialBowl. “I think everyone has fought over the last 18 months. And this industry, from live music to restaurants to hospitality in general, is bouncing back.”

London hosts Canadian Country Music Week 2021, which begins Friday night and ends Monday with the Canadian Country Music Awards at Budweiser Gardens. (CBC News)

Monday evening awards ceremony

Canadian Country Music Week kicks off Friday with a performance presented by The Recklaws of Cambridge, Ont., At London Music Hall.

Live performances will take place at RBC Place and London Music Hall through Saturday and Sunday, featuring artists like Shawn Austin, Tim Hicks, High Valley, Andrew Hyatt and Dallas Smith.

London is the first city to host CCMAs since Calgary hosted the awards in 2019.

Due to the pandemic, last year’s CCMAs were held virtually.

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