Many Upper Austrians had already marked January 29th in their calendars – one of the highlights of this year’s ball season would have taken place today, Saturday, with the KV Ball in the Palais Kaufmännischer Verein in Linz. But the event, like most other balls, was canceled weeks ago: fast turns in three-four time, music and midnight interludes are falling victim to the corona pandemic again this year. The failure not only hurts the guests, but also causes headaches for numerous business people.
In normal years, 12 to 15 balls take place in the Brucknerhaus: from the police ball to the JKU ball to the HBLA Elmberg school ball. Hubert Harrer calculates that one of these events is attended by around 2,500 guests: he is the managing director of the Linz branch of the catering company DoN. In addition to the state and music theater and the airport, the Brucknerhaus is also used by DoN: “Due to the failure, we are missing a considerable sum.” Numerous suppliers are also indirectly affected: from the laundry to the butcher to the fish farmer.
Hopeful in the future
The Austrian Fashion Board warns that for many shoemakers, designers and tailors, the loss of balls will result in a drop in sales of at least half. The pandemic is also tearing large holes in the balance sheets of many event technicians: “But with a curfew at 10 p.m. and assigned seats, a ball simply makes no sense,” says technician Patrick Köppl. For the Linz hairdresser Angela Edinger, the cancellation of the ball season is the “lesser problem” for the industry.
The Linz dance school teacher Michael Horn sees it differently and is already planning balls: “We are not willing to skip the youth dance courses.”
Horn: Ball season postponed
The ball season continues for the Linz dance school Horn this spring. Then, after the crisis-related “total failure” of the basic courses, the students of the year 2020 will be able to make their debut together with the youth courses of the past year. Horn announced three balls for the debutants.
“You want to do it, there’s insane discipline,” said Michael Horn. With the adult courses, “the online design of the courses helped as a positive side effect” and the already established club system, in which the courses can be called up online. “We are very well attended,” said the 61-year-old dance teacher about the current situation. In the halls people dance with 2G and masks.
“Ball season is minor problem”
“The ball season is our lesser problem,” said Angela Edinger, who runs the Edinger hairdressing salon on the Taubenmarkt in Linz together with a partner. No balls just mean less work on a few days. Edinger hopes much more that there will be no further lockdown.
“We can handle anything as long as we are allowed to work,” Edinger added. For hairdressers, this means either short-time work or a mountain of work, as was the case with the “backlog at Christmas”. At the moment business is “amazingly good”, said Edinger, although 20 percent of the customers are missing due to 2G. For people, going to the hairdresser is “like a mini short vacation”.
“Up to 15,000 euros are spent on technology”
The work begins at seven in the morning with the set-up – and usually doesn’t end until around four in the morning: Event technicians are indispensable for the success of a ball. They take care of lighting, disco and karaoke, the right sound and TV screens and operate the camera if the event is also recorded.
“The big balls have a budget of up to 15,000 euros for this,” says Patrick Köppl. The 47-year-old has been in charge of up to 30 balls per season for around 20 years with his Linz company “Streetpark Productions”, including numerous school balls. “That accounted for up to a quarter of the annual turnover.” In recent years, however, the number of balls they look after has been reduced.
Investments in technology and IT weigh particularly heavily in the industry: the technicians make advance payments here, and now the equipment is only used to a limited extent. At Streetpark Productions, with four employees, they switch to alternative fields of activity: “We do numerous streaming events, for example lectures that the participants can tune into, or training courses for companies.” They do not work cost-effectively.
From 15 to zero balls
Hubert Harrer, Managing Director of the Linz location of the caterer DoN, who is responsible for music and state theatres, the airport and the Brucknerhaus, speaks of a “very manageable business”: twelve to 15 balls usually take place there in a ball season, this year there is not a single one : “There is already a considerable sum missing.”
Times are difficult for catering companies: in normal years, Christmas parties in November and December make good money. These were canceled again in 2021. “In terms of sales, we were 90 percent short of 2019 in December.” The gastronomy in the theaters and music houses is also very mixed. The curfew at 10 p.m. is a disaster: “Hardly anyone wants to meet for dinner at 5 p.m..” 110 employees work in Linz, many of them on short-time work: “Without it we couldn’t keep them.”
“The creativity in tailoring is missing”
A large bow here, a velvet brocade stitch there: Linz fashion designer Gottfried Birklbauer usually makes up to 40 robes for his customers each ball season. Some of the fabrics had already been bought, but they will not be used for the ball season: “The creativity in tailoring a ball gown is missing,” says Birklbauer.
Four employees work in his studio on Herrenstrasse in Linz: it takes around 40 hours to work on a dress, including cutting and fitting. Prices start at 2000 euros.
The Austrian Fashion Board, an association of fashion designers in Austria, had already sounded the alarm in December: the ball season accounts for half or more of annual sales for many in the industry. Birklbauer also confirms this: “Some of the industry has been badly affected. We recently had a guild meeting. A lot of clothes makers try to make do with changes and repairs.” There were also no occasions where traditional costumes were worn at the moment.
“People’s longing to go out is definitely there,” says Birklbauer. Since the options are limited due to illness and quarantine cases, an early curfew and strict 2G controls, customers are increasingly ordering other things from him: “Instead of large robes, pants suits or cashmere coats are now being bought, for example.”