Rose Parade cancellation means millions in lost revenue
Pasadena’s iconic Rose Parade is the latest large event to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the region will feel a noticeable void when Jan. 1 rolls around.
People from throughout Southern California and well beyond will miss the floats, the music and the grandeur that draws hundreds of thousands to the streets of Pasadena while attracting millions of TV viewers worldwide.
Beyond that, the region is in for a major economic hit.
Few businesses will feel as heavy an impact as Sharp Seating. The Pasadena company sells grandstand seats to parade watchers for prices ranging from $60 to $110.
“We’ve been posturing for today for quite a while,” said Sindee Riboli, president and general manager for the family-owned business. “We were hoping for the best but expecting the worst. God willing, we’ll be back in 2022 for a bigger bash.”
A report from Enigma Research — the most recent measure of the parade’s economic impact — reveals that the 2018 Rose Parade created a direct economic impact of $143 million for the region while also supporting the equivalent of 2,062 full-time jobs, mostly in hotels, restaurants, retail shops and entertainment venues.
“This will be the first time in 75 years that the parade hasn’t been held,” Tournament of Roses CEO David Eads said. “This is devastating for the region and devastating for our 935 members who work year-round to put this on.”
By the numbers
The report shows that local residents spent an estimated $48.5 million on events related to the 2018 parade, while more than 90% of non-local visitors surveyed said they would return to Southern California based on their Rose Parade experience.
In terms of attendance, 567,000 (81%) of parade watchers were from the greater Los Angeles area and 133,000 (19%) came from outside the region for a combined total of 700,000.
The Rose Bowl game is tentatively slated for Jan. 1, although that could change depending on how quickly the health crisis can be reined in. Enigma Research said the game drew 57,000 fans and generated $68 million in revenue in 2018.
Combined, the parade and Rose Bowl game generated more than $198 million, the report said.
A double whammy
The parade cancellation will impact businesses across the board, ranging from restaurants, bars, hotels and retails shops to parking facilities, gas stations and rideshare services. Many have already been hammered by shutdowns and increased safety protocols related to the health pandemic.
On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health reported 11,126 new cases of COVID-19. The state now has a total of 347,634 positive cases and 7,227 deaths.
Pasadena businesses typically get a major boost each year when visitors pour into the region to eat, shop, stay at area hotels and access a variety of other services while attending the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game.
But that won’t be happening for 2021.
‘A huge hit’
“It’s a huge hit,” said David Houston, who co-owns six Barney’s Beanery restaurant/bars in Southern California, including one on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. “And it’s not just the day of the parade. We typically get a ramp-up that lasts the whole week when the football teams come in and tourists arrive. It’s a really solid week for us.”
Still, Houston said he sees the rationale behind the cancellation.
“I’m sure it takes a herculean effort to prepare for the parade,” he said. “And it’s not like they can wait until November to figure this out.”
Sharp Seating’s woes
Riboli said Sharp Seating was well into its seating sales when the parade cancellation was announced.
“We’ve already sold 25,000 to 30,000 seats, which is about a third of our total,” she said.
Customers who bought seats for the 2021 Rose Parade will be able to redeem their same seats for the 2022 parade at no additional charge, Riboli said.
The cancellation will also affect Sharp’s staffing. The company operates with just three staff members during the offseason. But that jumps to around 500 when the parade draws near as temporary workers are brought on board to answer phones and serve as ushers and parking attendants.
Hotels struggle, bands won’t be playing
“Some of the businesses that would benefit the most are the ones that have been hit hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Paul Little, president and CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. “The Langham and Sheraton hotels are still closed, and other hotels are struggling.”
Float builders, Sharp Seating and high school bands that have been raising money to participate in the Rose Parade all had to make hard decisions in light of the ongoing health crisis, Little said.
“Businesses have had to make draconian decisions in regard to staffing,” he said. “I’m sure the Tournament of Roses Association will be furloughing employees. We’re already furloughing our employees 40% of the time. It was either that or lay people off.”
Chamber members who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and can’t currently pay their membership dues won’t be dropped, according to Little.
“We understand the economic reality,” he said. “The Rose Parade would have been the one bright spot to bring in the new year … but now that won’t happen.”