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New York is finally open again for big weddings — but with restrictions

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New York has finally opened itself up again for big, fat weddings — but it’s still clamping down on the fun.

Starting Monday, the Empire State will allow weddings with as many as 150 guests — up from a previous limit of 50 — for the first time since the pandemic started in March 2020. Insiders say the move, approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 29, has already spurred an uptick for the state’s battered events industry, which has been running on fumes.

But in loosening the headcount, the governor has also clamped down with a litany of restrictions on everything from dancing and COVID testing. That, in turn, has spurred at least some couples to take their nuptials to states with less restrictive rules, especially New Jersey.

“I tried to explain the dancing rule and was told by one of my clients ‘you’re making that up,’” Mickey King, owner of Antun’s catering hall in Queens, said of the “socially-distanced dancing” rules now in place.

King said he was slammed with six cancellations and postponements for parties that had been booked for April through October after the Cuomo administration released a 17-page document describing the new wedding rules on Feb. 24.

While the dancing rules raised a lot of eyebrows, the biggest gripe by far, he said, centered on the state’s COVID-19 testing stipulation.

Starting on March 15, anyone attending a wedding or other large social gathering in NY must provide proof of a negative result within 72 hours of the event — or proof of an antigen test performed within six hours of the party. The Garden State is also allowing weddings with up to 150 guests, but isn’t requiring COVID-19 tests.

“The testing is an issue,” agreed Max Janoff, a partner in the Crystal Plaza in Livingston, NJ, who says he’s been fielding calls from New Yorkers ever since the new party rules came out. Janoff has already booked an October wedding for Manhattan couple who first considered the Big Apple before settling on New Jersey because the state has less strict rules.

In Staten Island, at least three parties that were booked at the Hilton Garden Inn recently canceled and moved their events to New Jersey, citing New York’s restrictive testing rules, said Anthony Gerardi, a partner in Sound Productions, which provides music.

“You don’t get tested to walk into a Walmart, go to a restaurant or attend a Zumba class, so why do you need to get tested for a private event?” clients asked Gerardi, he said.

Antun’s catering hall
Antun’s catering hall in Queens.
Antun’s

Anyone getting married in New York, meanwhile, must study up on rules covering everything from how they dance to how they sip their cocktails.

Guests can only remove their masks when seated and either eating or drinking. And they can only dance with members of their immediate household or people seated at their table, according to the rules.

Anyone dancing must also stay in their own “zone,” which is described as a “designated and clearly marked” area that is at least six feet from any other dancing zone.

The dancing rules also have event operators scratching their heads.

”How can we police whether table three and four are mingling,” said one operator who did not want to be identified. “If they choose to dance together, who am I to stop their freedom of expression.” 

“I guess I’ll use masking tape,” King said of the “zone” requirements. “But how ugly is that going to look when I have to outline a box on a floor?”

Antun’s owner Mickey King said he was slammed with cancellations and postponements after the Cuomo administration released a 17-page document describing the new wedding rules on Feb. 24.
Antun’s

Despite the annoyances, the New York-based events industry is still heaving a huge sigh of relief over the increased guest limit as it will lead to more business overall and therefore bring more people back to work.

Arthur Backal, who runs the Mandarin Oriental’s party spaces among other luxury venues in the city, said he and his team are fielding upwards of 20 requests a week for people wanting a tour of the venues. That’s compared with one such appointment every two weeks last year.

“All of our calls had been about postponements and cancellations — until now,” Backal said.

And New Yorkers who’d been sitting on the fence about weddings in the spring and summer are now printing their invitations, according to Ashley Douglass, who runs an eponymous event planning business. 

“I had two couples who just signed off on sending their invitations to the printer for weddings in May and June,” Douglass told The Post. “That’s a big deal,” she added, “because it’s a non-refundable expense and can run anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000.”

Antun’s catering hall
Anyone getting married in New York, meanwhile, must study up on rules covering everything from how they dance to how they sip their cocktails.
Antun’s

Meanwhile, Larry Gold’s Unique Event Group on March 2 booked combo DJ-band music for two weddings in June and August, while Hechler Photographers had its first in-person meeting with a bride and her mom on Feb. 24 to discuss a wedding at The Pierre hotel.

“People who moved their wedding dates multiple times last year now want to move their dates up to May and June from the fall,” added Gerardi of Sound Productions.

On June 19, Midtown’s Gotham Hall — the 9,000-square-foot ballroom that hosts more than 40 weddings annually — will host its first wedding in more than a year.

As for the COVID tests, some couples are offering to take care of the testing for their guests — even though hiring lab technicians to administer rapid tests as guests arrives can cost anywhere from $50 to $150 a pop, Douglass said.

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Glasses retailer Warby Parker eyeing IPO as soon as this year

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Hipster glasses retailer Warby Parker is eyeing an initial public offering.

The 11-year-old business, which started out as an e-tailer before rolling out some 130 stores across the US, is considering an IPO as early as this year, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The New York-based company has amassed a huge customer following by offering less expensive prescription glasses. Warby Parker raised $120 million in its most recent funding round giving it a $3 billion valuation, according to the report.

“We’ve always explored various financing opportunities in both the debt and equity markets,” the company said in a statement. “To date, we have successfully and deliberately raised money within the private market on favorable terms and have plenty of cash on our balance sheet. We’ll continue to make strategic decisions in line with our commitment to sustainable growth.”

Founded by college buddies Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, who met at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Warby Parker has attracted some large investors including the mutual fund company, T. Rowe Price.

It turned it first profit in 2018, Gilboa told The New York Times at the time.

Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Brian Ach/Getty Images

Customers can get prescriptions through their apps on their smartphones and use cameras to pick out frames. The company also has an optical lab in Sloatsburg, NY where it produces lenses.

While Warby Parker is not the least expensive option, it beats Costco in a recent comparison with Costco charging as little a $126 for a pair of prescription glasses compared with Warby Parker’s least expensive pair at $95.

“As consumer walk into a LensCrafters or Sunglass Hut, they see 50 different brands of glasses but don’t realize that all those brands are owned by the same company that owns the store that they’re standing in, that probably owns the vision insurance plan they’r using to pay for those glasses,” Gilboa said in a recent CNBC interview.

“And so, it’s no surprise that a lot of those glasses are marked up 10 to 20 times what they cost to manufacture,” he said.

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Dogecoin hits new high boosted by DogeDay hashtags

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Dogecoin prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday, with a market capitalization above $50 billion, after social media fans used hashtags to fuel a rally in the meme-based cryptocurrency.

An 8,000 percent price surge this year has seen Dogecoin, which was launched as a satirical critique of 2013′s cryptocurrency frenzy, overtake more widely-used cryptocurrencies like Tether to become the fifth-largest coin.

While Dogecoin, whose logo features a Shiba Inu dog at the center of the meme, a represents only a fraction of bitcoin’s $1 trillion value, it can be traded on crypto exchanges and more popular mainstream trading apps.

“The Doge rally represents an interesting convergence,” said Diana Biggs, CEO of crypto start-up Valour, after Dogecoin’s price soared by more than five-fold in the last week to a record 42 cents, according to CoinMarketCap.

“A meme coin created as a joke for early crypto adopters whose community found that kind of thing to be fun, with now a new generation of retail investors for whom memes are a native language,” Biggs added.

Dogecoin fans used the hashtags #DogeDay and #DogeDay420 to post memes, messages and videos on Twitter, Reddit and TikTok, referring to the informal April 20 holiday to celebrate cannabis which is marked by smoke-ins and street parties.

“GIMME THAT DOGECOIN LAMBO!!! #DogeDay” one tweeted, referring to the Lamborghini car popular in crypto culture.

Dogecoin’s rise has come amid a surge in online trading of stocks and crypto by retail investors, stuck at home with extra cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not coincided with a growth in usage of the coin for payments or in commerce.

The same trend has spurred a boom in usage of online trading apps like Robinhood, and also fueled the social-media driven rally in GameStop stock that pitted retail investors against hedge funds earlier this year.

“It’s an extension of the same phenomenon that has led Tesla stock to be valued well beyond fundamentals and more recently to the GME (GameStop) short squeeze,” said Ajit Tripathi, head of institutional business at decentralised finance startup Aave.

Like other cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin’s price is heavily influenced by social media users including Tesla chief Elon Musk, whose tweets on the cryptocurrency in February sent its price soaring over 60 percent.

“If this goes as planned and everybody including Mr. Musk go ahead and just pour money into Doge on April 20th all at once Doge will reach prices that originally were not even conceptual,” a TikTok user said in a video promoting the coin.



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Amazon is opening a beauty salon in London

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Amazon is opening a hair salon in London — its latest odd lurch into new businesses as the pandemic continues to fuel the e-commerce giant’s torrid growth.

The Amazon Salon, unveiled in a Tuesday blog post, will occupy a two-story, 1,500-square-foot space in Spitalfields, a trendy neighborhood in East London that is also home to Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.

Indeed, the new salon, which will be open seven days a week, initially will only cater to Amazon workers. Members of the public will be able to make bookings in “the coming weeks” by calling, emailing or visiting the salon, the company says.

“This will be an experiential venue where we showcase new products and technology,” Amazon said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that there are no plans to open other salons.

That will include making Amazon’s Fire tablets available at each station, allowing customers to use augmented reality technology to see what they look like as a platinum blonde, brunette or with highlights, the company said.

The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
Amazon

The salon will also test new “point-and-learn” technology, where customers can point at a product they are interested in on a display shelf and the relevant information, including brand videos and educational content, will appear on a display screen.

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