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Can’t rent the whole roof? Santa Barbara venues pioneer party-shares

By   /   Friday, November 25th, 2011  /   Comments Off on Can’t rent the whole roof? Santa Barbara venues pioneer party-shares

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The more the merrier! For the first time ever, two popular Santa Barbara County venues are hosting holiday party-shares for small businesses.

It’s not the traditional way for companies to throw holiday parties, but Canary Hotel and Rincon Beach Club say nontraditional holiday parties may be the new “in” thing this holiday season.

Laura McIver, Canary’s general manager, told me this is the perfect year to throw the hotel’s first rooftop party-share. For one thing, finances are a bigger factor than ever in these tough economic times, and renting out just a small portion of Canary’s roof is less expensive than renting out an entire venue. But saving a buck isn’t the only reason companies may want to book space in a party-share environment. It’s also just plain fun.

“Our roof is one of the most coveted spots in Santa Barbara to do office parties, but smaller offices often don’t have enough people to rent out the entire thing,” McIver said. “That type of office would normally go to a restaurant, but that’s not the same. We really felt that there’s not a great spot in town for the small parties.”

Canary Hotel has had to turn away requests for holiday parties in the past because the companies simply don’t have enough people to fill the rooftop. This year, the hotel’s catering manager had the idea to open up the roof for a “bring your own business” party where the hotel will provide food, drinks, location and ambience — along with people from other companies to help spread the holiday cheer.

Canary’s party-share is on Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The event is open to businesses and groups that range from 8 to 20 guests. Canary’s roof can hold over 200 people, and McIver said they’re hoping for about 150 guests total.

The rooftop party isn’t limited to businesses. Families and groups of friends are also welcome to take advantage of the concept. McIver said the Canary rooftop is a great “girls night out” spot. The hotel hosted weekly wine tastings on the roof throughout the summer, and McIver said they were especially popular with large groups of women.

A few miles south from Canary Hotel’s downtown Santa Barbara location, Carpinteria’s Rincon Beach Club is hosting a similar event. Event planner Melissa Younce told me the club’s small-business holiday party is a way to bring the community together.

“There are so many small businesses that can’t afford to do something grand,” Younce said. “We’re doing this because we’ve been calling companies and asking about their holiday plans. So many of them have told us they’re too small and on too tight of a budget to have a party. So we wanted to offer something different to the community.”

Younce said the beach club will probably make less money the night of the party-share than they would if they rented out the venue to a private party, but it wants to offer a way for businesses to celebrate the holidays and meet new people.

Like McIver, Younce said the businesses the event is meant to attract are the same ones that normally go to a restaurant for their annual holiday party.

“But restaurants don’t offer the same thing,” Younce said. At a restaurant, for instance, employees wouldn’t get a chance to mingle with other diners and share in a festive atmosphere. Younce also pointed out that restaurants don’t usually have DJ’s, dancing or photo booths, all of which will be on hand at the Rincon Beach Club during its party-share.

Rincon’s party, which will take place on Thursday, Dec. 8, works slightly differently from Canary’s rooftop event. It’s open to groups of 10 people or more, and Younce said the club is hoping for 100 to 150 guests over the course of the night. The beach club is providing a plated dinner during three separate seatings (6:30, 7 and 7:30 p.m.), followed by dancing that begins at 9 p.m.

Up at Canary, there won’t be a seated dinner. McIver said “there will be enough hors d’oeuvres so everyone feels full,” and there’s always the option for groups to head downstairs to the Coast Restaurant for dinner.

Both venues are also hosting their fair share of private holiday parties this year. The Canary rooftop attracts a lot of the bigger Santa Barbara companies for their annual holiday parties, and they tend to rent out the entire roof for an entire night. Rincon Beach Club has also booked quite a few holiday parties for groups of 50 to 200 people.

Canary Hotel and Rincon Beach Club are accepting reservations for their party-shares now. Tickets are $35 per person ($50 per person with two drink tickets) at Canary, and $39 per person at Rincon.

Both McIver and Younce said they expect to attract groups from medical and dental offices, law firms and other companies that tend to have a small number of employees. The beach club already has bookings from a winery and a flower grower.

“Offices really want to do something nice for their employees,” McIver told me. “But this year, it has to be something affordable.”


As part of my hospitality beat, I’ll be writing a monthly column covering trends in the travel and tourism industry. If you have comments or ideas, I can be reached at [email protected].

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