Offbeat Banquet Sites
I’m planning a seated awards dinner and presentation for 300 and would like to go somewhere different from the hotel ballrooms and banquet halls that usually host such events. Do you have any suggestions?
Outside of the typical awards venues—the Cipriani spaces, the Waldorf—some unusual spaces in the city are large enough for a dinner that big. The National Museum of the American Indian has banquet facilities in its rotunda, decorated with murals by Reginald Marsh and a large skylight, as well as an auditorium for an awards show just large enough to seat 300. Plus, it houses the Diker Pavilion, new this September; it seats 325 theater-style. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, offers three spaces with seating for 300 or more guests.
Or why not try an outdoor venue? Elevated Acre has a full acre in the financial district, 30 feet above street level. Another option in Lower Manhattan is Downtown Auditorium, with its removable stage and 22-square-foot retractable screen. It seats 300 for banquets among its mosaic pillars and 30-foot-high ceilings. Uptown, restaurant-turned-event space Guastavino’s is open again as a spacious and unique alternative under the arches of the Queensboro Bridge. If you don’t mind taking a ferry, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum can accommodate more than 1,000 guests in its historic Registry Room, with vaulted ceilings and a view of the Statue of Liberty.
I’m planning an evening with a performance and presentation followed by an afterparty. Can you suggest two venues in the same neighborhood that would work?
Any of the Lincoln Center theaters are ideal performance venues close to both the great room at the Time Warner Center and Shun Lee West. Avery Fisher Hall seats 2,738 and the Metropolitan Opera House seats 3,800. The great room holds 350 for receptions or seats 75; Shun Lee West holds 150 in its main dining room.
Down in SoHo, Sounds of Brazil is a more intimate performance space with a 10- by 20-foot stage; it holds 400 and serves Latin and Brazilian cuisine. Nearby Skylight, a venue with 20-foot ceilings and a 3,000-square-foot terrace that holds 1,200 for receptions, can be used for the after-party.
Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan Center Studios seats 3,500 theater-style beneath 75-foot ceilings with frescoes depicting ngels. The crowd can relocate to Splashlight Studios, a raw space that holds 1,500 for receptions. Deck furniture, umbrellas, and even a swimming pool can be provided for its 2,500-square-foot outdoor terrace.
For a smaller group, 26 and Helen Mills Theater has a 140-seat performance space on the first floor. You can even include dinner upstairs at 26, a raw space that seats 200. Then move the party across the street to Lotus Space, a 5,500-square-foot venue that comes complete with in-house flower design, full event decor, and lighting.
For Lectures and Lunches
My company hosts conferences attended by between 150 and 400 attendees, and we usually use hotel ballrooms. I’m looking for a new and more exciting location that offers separate rooms for the lectures and luncheons. What would you recommend?
The New School’s campus in Greenwich Village offers a variety of auditoriums and meeting spaces, the largest of which is 450-seat Tishman Auditorium. It also has two amphitheaters within the same building that each seat 135, as well as the 215-seat Swayduck Auditorium, and the 40-seat Wolff and Machinist conference rooms. The American Museum of Natural History has heavy architectural emphasis in its more than 40 exhibition halls. Three theaters are equipped with audiovisual technology, including the beautifully restored Beaux-Arts LeFrak IMAX Theater.
Smart Spots for Small Expos
What are some venues suitable for a small trade show?
For a very small trade show, west Chelsea’s column-free, loftlike venue, the Newspace provides 4,000 square feet and holds 15 10- by 10-foot booths. Another venue in the neighborhood, the 10,000-square-foot Eyebeam—a popular location for fashion and media parties a few years back—has reopened for event business with space for 50 booths of the same size. The Altman Building holds 40 booths on its main floor and an additional 10 in its underground gallery. A passageway connects it to the Metropolitan Pavilion, which has polished hardwood floors, an indoor loading dock, and space for 105 booths on its main floor. It also provides the option to expand to its two other floors, which each hold an additional 30 booths.
Other choices include the West Side ballroom at the Marriott Marquis, which can hold 80 booths; the skylighted main studio at the Cedar Lake Center that holds 44 booths between two areas, and Splashlight Studios, which has room for 20 booths in its largest space (or its five studios can be combined).
The spacious studios in the Starrett-Lehigh Building offer views of downtown, the Hudson River, and the Empire State Building; the Designers & Agents biannual fashion trade show is here. Hudson Studios has five rooms on the 13th floor, and Boylan Studios and the 11,000-square-foot Peter White Studio are on the 14th floor.
Roomy Runway Locales
Can you suggest a location that would be appropriate for a 900-person fashion show and after-party? The event is in January, so an outdoor space won’t work.
The Waterfront, a former distribution center with an interior train platform, is well suited for a fashion show. Its 20-foot ceilings, red brick walls, and hardwood floors give the open 23,000-square-foot area a modern industrial look. Skylight, last year’s large, raw space du jour, provides a stark white, flexible backdrop and offers drive-in access. For a more ornate feel, Cipriani Wall Street takes up an entire block of space and has a 70-foot ceiling with an elaborate dome. Although the Tent at Lincoln Center is normally taken down during the winter, it can be set up for an event in January (for a fee, naturally). The tent comes complete with heating, bright interior lighting, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and bathrooms.
I’m on the lookout for quirky boutique hotels and inns. Any ideas?
The Inn at Irving Place is comprised of two adjoining unmarked town houses—only recognizable by the address—that date back to 1834. The property features Victorian decor and houses Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon and Cibar, a comfy basement space.
Central Park provides the view for lots of upscale, historic lodgings. One favorite is Louis Sherry’s Sherry-Netherland Hotel. Opened in 1927, it has been the home of Barbra Streisand, George Burns, and Francis Ford Coppola. It has retained its sense of old-fashioned European charm in the 53 individually decorated guest rooms, which all feature original artwork or signed lithographs. The Louis Sherry Room, with built-in bookshelves and a decorative fireplace, holds 40 for meetings or 24 for seated dinners. The Michelangelo Hotel lives up to its namesake with its multilingual staff and authentic Italian decor, including oil paintings, Venetian and Florentine fabrics, and crystal chandeliers. It features two boardrooms and the Roman Room, which holds 125 for receptions or can be combined with an adjoining mezzanine to hold an additional 25.
If you’re interested in hotels with quirky concepts, consider the Library Hotel, which offers themed floors such as the Literature Floor and rooms filled with books that match the floor’s topic. Or the Time Hotel, Vikram Chatwal’s boutique property inspired by Alexander Theroux’s essays The Primary Colors.
For Stripped-Down Events
Can you recommend any tasteful gentlemen's clubs that would be suitable for a product launch?
Call us prudes, but we don’t usually include these places in our venue listings. But here’s a brief survey: The Penthouse Executive Club (603 West 45th St., 212.245.0002) is willing to close its doors for a few hours during the week as long as the product launch incorporates its staff as well as food from the in-house restaurant, Robert’s Steakhouse. The club has two floors with a restaurant that overlooks the main stage; it holds 350 for receptions. Shows like Law & Order and Sex and the City have filmed at Privilege (565 West 23rd St., 212.243.6888), a smaller space that holds 74 for receptions and allows outside catering. Its historic building features a 100-year-old mahogany bar and a stained glass ceiling.
Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club (641 West 51st St., 212.289.5033) was recently renovated to include a heated, domed roof deck that opened in June. The deck holds 200 for receptions and the other two levels of the club hold an additional 300 for receptions. The venue has a main stage, two satellite stages, leather upholstery, and is open to discussion about staffing arrangements. And don’t forget Scores West (536 West 28th St., 212.868.4900), the site of the launch for Nicole Miller’s lingerie line in May last year. Rental of the entire space is dependent on the time of day and the number of people; the club holds a total of 500 people.
Photos: Kevin J. McCormick (Elevated Acre), Sandor Acs (Avery Fisher Hall), HumanPhotography (Sounds of Brazil), Denis Finnin (Le Frak Theatre), Courtesy of Hudson Studios (Hudson Studios), Eugenia Park (Skylight), Courtesy of the Inn at Irving Place(Lady Mendl's Salon), Michael Goldman (Hustler Club).
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