Lavish office parties make a comeback

Dust off those crustaceans and make some holiday cheer!

Get ready to see your co-worker in a compromising position.

Nationwide, holiday parties are in a slump – but in New York City, venues are lining up the shot glasses.

“We definitely have seen a change this year,” said Laura Altman at Bowlmor Lanes.  “People aren’t really holding back.”
 
After a three-year drought, Conde Nast heralded the return of its lavish holiday luncheon at the Four Seasons. After 2008, in the midst of the recession, the company nixed the luncheon.
 
As employers edge back into reveling, parties are nowhere near pre-recession levels – no polar bear requests, event planner Sarah Pease joked.

Early requests are for bars made out of ice and ice sculptures, event planners said. Others choose to host in their offices. Sarah Pease of Brilliant Event Planning said one client’s in-house $300,000 party includes an “Around the World” theme with Italian and Latin American rooms.

Swank Productions CEO Maya Kalman, said her advertising, law and finance clients are booking places like The Plaza Hotel.

“I think the open bar is definitely back,” she said.
 
New York is bucking a dismal national trend: Crains reported that the number of companies nationwide hosting holiday bashes has reached its lowest point in recent years.

Yet venues like Gotham Hall and the Trump Soho reported bumps in bookings.
 
At Bowlmor Lanes, party reservations are up 25 percent, and their calendar filled up a month ago. Last year, money-cautious companies waited until December to commit, Altman said.
 
“People have more money this year,” she said. “People definitely aren’t as budget-conscious this year as they were last year.”
 
 Holiday sex

A new South African report suggests that holiday drinking contributes to higher rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The article, in the Sowetan, quotes a gynecologist who said women often come to him in January after party season flings.  Diseases and pregnancies – especially among teenagers –  escalate after the holiday bump, the article said.
 
Trimming more than a tree

Even as they bring back five-figure events, some hosts still trim the budget.
 
“People are definitely bargain shopping,” said Mario Stewart, president of event planning company EMRG Media.

Some Trump Soho partiers opt for an iPod instead of a DJ, said a Trump spokeswoman.
 
One client bartered radio ads for a discount, Stewart said. Another got a half-price deal by booking Thursday afternoon.
 
“They basically got a party that might be valued at $15,000 for maybe half the price,” he said.

And some staffers will uncork champagne in the afternoon. Employers are booking daytime parties at places like the Bowlmor.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro.


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