Mid June brought an announcement from the Southeastern Car Wash Association (SECWA) that its American Car Wash Expo 2020, scheduled for September 14-26 in Atlanta, GA, had been cancelled. This followed the cancellation two weeks prior of the Northeast Regional Carwash Convention (NRCC), which was to be held in Atlantic City October 5-7. As did the NRCC, SECWA attributed the cancellation to concerns about large gatherings, ability to socially distance, and reluctance to travel brought on by COVID-19.
The earlier cancellation of the April-scheduled The Car Wash Show means that, with the exception of the Southwest Car Wash Association’s Convention and Expo that took place in Fort Worth, TX at the end of January, all car wash conventions in the United States have been wiped off the events calendar for the year. Gatherings of car washers have also been affected internationally. In Germany, UNITI Expo rescheduled its biennial event from May 2020 to February 2021 and Automechanika, also a biennial, moved its show from September 2020 to September 2021.
Learning and networking opportunities are disrupted. The way we do business is upended. Our daily lives are disturbed. It is no wonder then that some participants on the wash forums are venting their frustrations. The issue stretches further than just business and personal challenges. There is a weariness with the steady diet of COVID and COVID-related news we’re being fed by the mainstream media. I sympathize. Yet, here I am adding print to the pile.
This accursed virus has a mind of its own, however. No sooner has it been mitigated sufficiently in an area to allow for businesses to reopen than it rears its ugly head again. In Texas non-essential businesses have only recently started opening up, but already several bars have voluntarily shut down again due to infection outbreaks. A few short weeks ago Arizona was still the envy of more populous states. Now it’s close to leading the pack in new infections while COVID-related hospitalizations are soaring, prompting the governor to authorize local governments to mandate the wearing of facemasks.
However much virus fatigue we are experiencing, this story is going to be with us for a while. According to the experts, the ups and downs we are going through are still part of the “first wave.” Though not a certainty, there is the possibility of a second wave hitting in the fall. Aside from the disease itself, there is the economic impact that is going to linger. Taxpayers have spent an awful lot of money to stabilize the economy, and it will do the job. But, eventually, the piper must be paid.
Meanwhile, more and more car washes are resuming operations. On June 15, full-service car washes could open their doors in New Jersey, joining their exterior-wash colleagues. Phase 1 of Massachusetts’s reopening plan allowed car washes to reopen on May 25, but they “must limit washing services only to the exterior surfaces of the vehicle,” and customers must stay in their cars throughout the car wash process. Phase 1 of Washington State’s reopening plan that took effect on May 7, on the other hand, specifically allows interior cleaning of vehicles, albeit by only one employee at a time. This is yet another example of how disparately states approach regulating business activity.
Operators will be best served by staying in close touch with their state or regional associations, the International Carwash Association, and, yes, the mainstream media no matter how irksome. These rules are known to change.