By Amy Tennery
TAMPA, Fla (Reuters) - The Super Bowl's annual celebrity circuit has all but gone quiet in Tampa, Florida, this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps A-listers and party-hungry fans at home.
With a limited crowd allowed to watch the hometown Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa can expect far less revenue - and socializing - than in years past when the rich and famous would descend on private jets to promote epic bashes ahead of American sport's biggest game.
John Terzian, the co-founder and president of hospitality and lifestyle company h.wood Group, told Reuters about 98% of the events fans could expect in a normal year "are not happening," including his annual Super Bowl party with Los Angeles' Bootsy Bellows nightclub.
"The events we do are extremely expensive and so we wouldn't be able to do that without our corporate partners," said Terzian, who first started hosting the parties in 2014.
"And the corporate partners have to be pretty careful and not be involved in stuff that could be a super spreader (of COVID-19)."
He considered his party last year in Miami, "Bootsy on the Water," to be his best yet, with Post Malone headlining and deep-pocketed patrons paying $150,000 for a VIP package, complete with eight-hour use of a 125-foot yacht with an on-stage private suite for 80 guests.
A year later, days away from an NFL championship game that once felt like an impossibility amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Terzian said he had set aside the disappointment of skipping the Tampa party scene and has already begun planning for next year's Super Bowl in Los Angeles.
"It was a very tough call because technically Tampa is open," said Terzian. "We're being respectful for the public at large and being safe and not doing the party."
A handful of A-List events are happening in Tampa, with WTR Pool and Grill welcoming DJ Steve Aoki on Friday, at an event sponsored by ultraclub E11EVEN and media group Barstool Sports, where an all-inclusive "VIP Plus" ticket with an open bar costs $450.
On Saturday, the same promoters will host DJ Diplo and rapper 50 Cent, charging $1,000 for a VIP ticket for men and $350 for women.
Those events, like the dozens of smaller, private parties across the region, will be expected to adhere to local health and safety regulations.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor recently instituted a mask mandate in high-traffic outdoor areas, amid stark warnings from public health experts over the threat of COVID-19, which has claimed more than 450,000 lives across the United States.
The Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee has encouraged fans to participate in outdoor activities, including the annual "Super Bowl Experience," which is being held along the Tampa Riverwalk and the Tampa Bay Yacht Village, where a 116-150-foot slip will set seafarers back a cool $50,000.
Meanwhile the annual "Taste of the NFL" Super Bowl party, where last year guests shelled out $700 to nosh on food prepared by celebrity chefs, has gone virtual, with James Beard award-winner Andrew Zimmern and former "Top Chef" contestant Carla Hall set to make appearances.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris)