Downtown Landmarks Are Hot Ticket for Holiday Parties

City Hall's got it‹the allure that only a landmark could provide, with some of the grandest, most historic architecture in the city.

Until the city government moved out for renovations and seismic retrofitting, its rotunda, so often the backdrop for films like "L.A. Confidential," also served as location for some fabulous parties, notably City Council President John Ferraro's annual Christmas bash where community leaders and supporters dressed to the nines and networked. A Ferraro spokesperson says that city offices are currently scheduled to return to their original headquarters in July, 2001, which means Ferraro will bring his parties back to the rotunda in Christmas 2001.

Other landmarks as well offer stunning locations for holiday parties. These are the city's most historic or architecturally significant buildings and plazas. Whether the Central Library, Union Station‹where Assemblyman Gil Cedillo holds an annual Christmas party‹or Pershing Square, many become private party zones for the city's corporate denizens during the holiday season.

Serving all these places are the event planners, highly-paid corporate organizers who handle every detail for a venue, from table settings to invitations. Patina Catering exclusively provides event planning and catering for the Performing Arts Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), while also serving other venues. Attention To Detail provides exclusive planning and catering to the Central Library, while Hollywood Locations plans events as well as film shoots at Union Station.

Fully Booked

The Central Library is one of the most sought after among government and corporate offices, with two spectacular venues: the Bradley Wing atrium and the rotunda in the main building. The Central Library offers one of the most flexible venues, a place where party planners can create amid the lofty ceiling of the Bradley atrium with its four levels of landings and terraces.

Patrice Lattimore, a management assistant for the Central Library's events office, said 10 to 20 corporate groups book the atrium or the library's historic rotunda every holiday season. Last year, Lattimore said, BPI Communications held a New Year party in the atrium for 250 employees, with each level decorated to signify a different decade in the 20th century. More than 300 people attended a party by the California League of Cities last Christmas, as well.

And weather permitting, groups can hold their parties in the Maguire Gardens outside, she said.

A Night At the Opera

The Grand Hall and the adjoining plaza at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion serve government offices and performing arts companies each holiday season when the hall is not in use for concerts and operas. With a capacity of 600, the Grand Hall offers one of the largest venues and is frequently used for pre-concert galas, public or private.

Dario Puig, Patina catering manager, said the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Opera will hold Christmas parties there, with dinner on the plaza, amid the fountains and colored lights. The city Office of Protocol uses the hall and plaza to host foreign dignitaries year-round, he said, while the county Department of Health and the county supervisor's office will hold their Christmas parties there. Puig said national organizations have used the venue for holiday gatherings, including the Federal Bar Association and the American Association of Museums.

"[National organizations] know us as a world-class venue," Puig said. "And it makes a great visual to see people dressed elegantly dining on the Plaza."

Art Party

MOCA is another party venue set amid the fine arts. Most parties are thrown in the Eli and Edith Broad Reception Hall, said Beth Gruenberg, museum manager of special events.

"The hall is next to the art galleries, so people can venture out and view exhibitions during a party," Gruenberg said.

Clients can also combine Arco Court outside the reception hall with the hall itself, which will accommodate 500 people, she said. But while the court is architecturally distinct, she said, not many groups use it during winter, with demand higher in summer.

Last Christmas season MOCA hosted two corporations: the Capital Group, a Downtown investment firm, and Coppos Films, a Westside production company.

Patina Catering again provides all the event planning and catering, Gruenberg said.

On Ice

But for those who prefer Christmas with a little winter weather, Pershing Square is a popular party venue during November and December. Louise Capone, facility manager for Pershing Square, said the ice rink is new trend in corporate partying. Rather than the typical office party of managers and employees, companies invite their employees to bring their families to Pershing Square, where children can enjoy skating with their parents.

"Last year one company ordered cider and cookies from the Biltmore Hotel," Capone said.

Recreation and Parks has hired Willy Bietak Productions to handle planning, from concert management to construction of the rink, which takes two weeks to construct, said Vicki Israel, principal recreation supervisor for the city Recreation and Parks Department. Then, to maintain the ice in the balmy Southern California winter, an "ice engineer" stays on call 24 hours, Israel said, while a refrigerator truck with a thermostat maintains the temperature and pumps a small flow of water through hoses between layers of the rink.

Groups can share the rink with the public for $2,500, as most groups do, or they can lease the entire rink for $4,500 and hold an "exclusive" event. For private office parties, Israel said Recreation and Parks can set up a canopy and customize catering for a particular group. Capone said the department tries to use a variety of restaurants, depending on the kind of menu a client wants.

"The mayor brings people here," Capone said, "and sometimes celebrities staying at the Biltmore for a concert or event bring their children here to skate."

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