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What's New in Event Venues: Robotic Puppies, a Ruth Bader Ginsburg-Themed Event Space and More

Rounding up the latest news from hotels, convention centers, meeting spaces, restaurants and other event venues across the United States and Canada.

Northern California’s Lodge at Sonoma, an Autograph Collection Hotel located in the heart of wine country, is celebrating the region’s famous autumn harvest with the cheeky new 'Pedal for Pinot' experience. Guests can rent complimentary bikes to pedal to numerous tasting rooms located just 1 mile from the property; they are given a colorful, easy-to-follow keepsake map commissioned by Illustrator Erin Cockayne, along with insider tips to other local attractions. In addition, the 182-room property’s new High Horse Bar is offering a custom cocktail with proceeds benefiting wine country communities and local nonprofits.
Northern California’s Lodge at Sonoma, an Autograph Collection Hotel located in the heart of wine country, is celebrating the region’s famous autumn harvest with the cheeky new "Pedal for Pinot" experience. Guests can rent complimentary bikes to pedal to numerous tasting rooms located just 1 mile from the property; they are given a colorful, easy-to-follow keepsake map commissioned by Illustrator Erin Cockayne, along with insider tips to other local attractions. In addition, the 182-room property’s new High Horse Bar is offering a custom cocktail with proceeds benefiting wine country communities and local nonprofits.
Photo: Courtesy of The Lodge at Sonoma, Autograph Collection

We're rounding up the biggest venue news of the month—in one convenient place. Got a tip? Get in touch!

In Case You Missed It
On BizBash recently, we chatted with meeting and co-working space Convene, which has started requiring vaccines at its 23 venues around the country. Learn how the team is doing it and the advice they'd give other event organizers and venues considering a similar mandate.

We also caught up with top event producer Liron David of Eventique, who shared his favorite places to host events around the country.

Here are eight more things you should know this month...

1. Hotel chains are hosting their own in-person events, in an effort to celebrate the industry and showcase safety protocols. 
Marriott North America hosted its largest customer event since the beginning of the pandemic from Aug. 24-27 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando. The gathering drew nearly 800 attendees, including corporate and association meeting planners, and showcased the brand’s Connect With Confidence safety protocols. All attendees were required to provide vaccine validation or a negative test via CLEAR’s Health Pass feature; there was also on-site testing by ITA Group/Eurofins. Attendees participated in industry meetings, collaborative breakout sessions, volunteer opportunities and in-person networking sessions, including a marketplace connecting customers with 115 hotels.  

Another brand that recently hosted its own event is Salamander Hotels & Resorts, which from Aug. 19-22 hosted its inaugural Family Reunion event at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Va. A partnership with chef Kwame Onwuachi and Food & Wine, the multiday gathering celebrated diversity in the hospitality industry through cooking classes and demos, wine tastings and dinners, and panel discussions with chefs and industry leaders like Carla Hall, Padma Lakshmi and Rodney Scott. There were also musical performances and activities like zip-lining, ax-throwing and horseback riding. The Family Reunion benefited Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to help end childhood hunger. The event is also helping create a mentorship and scholarship program to foster diversity in the hospitality industry.The Family Reunion benefited Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to help end childhood hunger. The event is also helping create a mentorship and scholarship program to foster diversity in the hospitality industry.Photo: Clay Williams

2. New York City’s vaccine mandate for restaurants has officially begun. 
As of Sept. 13, New York’s restaurants, bars and other indoor venues are requiring proof of vaccination—and restaurateurs recently spoke to Eater.com about what the effect has been on business. Some report that the mandate has encouraged longtime customers to get vaccinated, while others are staging protests via public demonstrations and fundraising campaigns to assist with fines from the city.

Eater Reports : “In Bay Ridge, where an estimated 70 percent of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Abdul Elenani, co-owner of bustling Palestinian restaurant Ayat, says he plans to display a sign about the mandate but won’t be asking his customers for proof of vaccination. Simply because he doesn’t have time. ’It’s adding labor during this insecure time,’ Elenani says. ’I would have to hire someone to check vaccines at the door.’ Paying the city’s fines would be cheaper than bringing on an additional employee at the restaurant, he says.”

3. Venues continue investing in new tech solutions.
The hospitality industry’s focus on finding innovative new technology isn’t going away. Case in point: Hospitality management company Charlestowne Hotels recently announced a major investment in new tech solutions designed to enhance guest operations and support streamlined operations across its properties. The new investments allow the brand to manage all 50+ hotels from one central hub. Highlights include a new budget and forecasting tool that offers real-time labor insights; a new property inspection platform that allows on-site teams to provide instant feedback to the Charlestowne corporate office; a customized project management platform for the marketing team; and a food and beverage CRM that allows properties to pivot and change menu items while maintaining brand consistency. 

“It's important to recognize that hotel technology has an incredible effect on the overall guest experience,” says Maxwell Spangler, corporate technology and systems manager at Charlestowne Hotels. “By continuing to integrate new technological solutions at our properties, we’re keeping our customers at the center of everything we do. This includes implementation of our zero-trust security policy, in-house SMS notification platform to dispatch internal communications, as well as hotel-specific technologies that are standard in the world of COVID-19—such as QR codes, cashless tipping applications, mobile-key or self-service kiosks.”

4. Hilton's in-house event director is documenting the planning process for the brand's upcoming conference.
Through the pandemic, Hilton has been making an effort to educate customers via its Hilton EventReady Playbook. And the team recently introduced a new content series that provides readers with a first-hand account of how the brand is planning its first internal conference, taking place in Las Vegas in December. Called “Diary of an Event Planner,” the series is being written by Kelly Knowlen, Hilton’s executive director of special events and sales engagement, who is offering guidance and best practices for both planners and attendees. The content series can be found here.

5. One Vegas resort is having a lot of fun with technology.
Improving the guest experience isn’t the only use for innovative new tech. The new Resorts World Las Vegas has a variety of buzzy new tech-forward experiences, including a self-guided tour for visitors to explore the property’s eclectic art program. Guests can use their mobile phones to scan QR codes on artwork throughout the hotel to learn details on the creation of the piece, its origins, artist information and more. 

Want something a little more cuddly? The resort has also added three robotic puppies (yes you read that right) to welcome guests to the Conrad Las Vegas lobby. In collaboration with Aibo and built with Sony’s latest technology, the AI-powered puppies—named Sinatra, Stardust and Elvis—are housed in custom-built playpens. The puppies have a wide range of sensors and actuators, which will allow them to learn and build their own personalities via interactions with guests. The robotic puppies feature hundreds of eye, ear and tail movements, as well as different voice sounds.The robotic puppies feature hundreds of eye, ear and tail movements, as well as different voice sounds.Photo: Resorts World Las Vegas

6. The James Beards Awards may look pretty different in 2022. 
After canceling its events in 2020 and 2021, the prestigious award program for the restaurant industry has undergone an extensive audit that will likely result in some changes to the annual ceremony, including a new ethics committee, a commitment to a 50% BIPOC voting body by 2023, and a wider net for finding chefs and restaurants.

Via Eater.com: “The foundation conducted an audit with the help of outside consulting firms in an attempt to face the reality that many of the would-be nominees for 2020 had been accused of bad behavior before the awards were called off. Even among those who stayed in the running for 2020, New York Times reporting revealed that not a single one of the award winners in 23 categories was Black. … The results of the audit, published on the foundation’s website, paint a picture of an organization that hopes to undertake a major overhaul in order to be more self-aware, transparent and diverse.” The 2022 James Beard Awards are slated for June 13 in Chicago.

7. An Orlando hotel is offering an exotic new team-building experience.
In August, the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, debuted an exclusive partnership with Corsa HQ. Guests can now rent high-end vehicles during their stay, selecting from brands including Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley. Rental options range from $395 to $195, depending on the car, and the experience includes a $50 or $100 Ritz-Carlton gift card. Guests can test drive the cars for up to four hours and can even switch cars halfway through their reservation. The hotel is marketing the experience for a variety of occasions, including date nights, team building, photo shoots and other events. 

8. Washington, D.C., has a new meeting space named after Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
It’s located at The Darcy in Logan Circle. Named after the late Supreme Court Justice, the 1,724-square-foot interior event space has a skylight and floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors that lead to a landscaped courtyard terrace. It holds more than 200 guests for meetings, weddings and receptions. The 226-room Darcy hotel has other event spaces named after notable Americans like Duke Ellington, Walt Whitman and Elinor Morton Wylie. â€śThe Bader Ginsburg designation for our new Courtyard Pavilion was carefully selected,” says General Manager Eumi Koh. “As an admired jurist, women’s rights advocate, and constitutional law scholar, Bader Ginsburg exuded brilliance, strength and discipline. The Darcy pays tribute to her presence with a dignified multifaceted venue that characteristically honors her disposition.”“The Bader Ginsburg designation for our new Courtyard Pavilion was carefully selected,” says General Manager Eumi Koh. “As an admired jurist, women’s rights advocate, and constitutional law scholar, Bader Ginsburg exuded brilliance, strength and discipline. The Darcy pays tribute to her presence with a dignified multifaceted venue that characteristically honors her disposition.”Photo: Courtesy of The Darcy

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