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Coping with coronavirus: Local event planner loses entire business in one day

A column dedicated to telling the personal stories of people in our community who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic

ST. LOUIS — In her own words, Dianna Cannon picked a hell of a year to branch out on her own as an event planner.

In the span of a few days in early March, the 43-year-old saw the industry evaporate as events she had scheduled for thousands of people were instantly canceled.

“I was immediately out of work,” she said during a phone interview from her St. Louis home.

Cannon’s backup plan has always been bartending and waiting tables when she was between jobs – jobs that have also disappeared for the moment.

She’s just one of countless others in the hospitality industry wondering how, and when, they will move forward from the coronavirus crisis. For now, she’s interacting with countless others in her same predicament on social media.

“It’s kind of funny, well, it’s not funny, it’s actually tragic that we all keep saying we need a side hustle to get through this, but everything I considered to be my side hustle was bartending and I know how to wait tables, but that’s all gone,” she said. 

“All those things are gone and a lot of people were always thinking, ‘I know how to wait tables and people will always be going out to eat.’ Well, not so much right now.”

Cannon said she doesn’t see her event planning industry picking up anytime soon – even this year.

Companies, she said, have already spent their event budgets.

The manager’s conference she was planning for a beauty corporation's 2,400 employees in Phoenix, Ariz. During the second week in April? Canceled.

“They already spent their budget on that event, all the airfare for the employees they won’t be getting back, the lodging,” she said. “So these events won’t be postponed or rescheduled.”

She said she spends her mornings applying for jobs online – ones for which she knows she is overqualified, including grocery store positions.

So far, no callbacks.

This week, Cannon applied for food stamps.

“Only thing that feels a little better is there are so many people going through the same thing,” she said. “It felt more dire at the beginning of the month, now it’s like there’s no anything and don’t take it personally because it’s not about you.

“It’s really scary right now. I don’t see the other side of it. I don’t know what happens, especially for people in events.”

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