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VOL. 42 | NO. 37 | Friday, September 14, 2018

It's gonna be a big year for holiday parties

Despite premiers of several new venues, few openings remain

By Hollie Deese

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Happy holidays are here again, especially in the Nashville area. The city’s booming economy bodes well for those who own and operate party spots, big and small, new and trendy, or classic and traditional. In recent years, businesses have tended to shy away from the big corporate bash for clients, customers or employees as a cost-cutting measure.

Not this year. Venues are becoming booked up already to accommodate the holiday celebrations at the end of the year and for New Year’s Eve, an event that usually sells out Nashville’s hotel rooms and brings in hundreds of thousands guests, according to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.

“As Nashville has grown as an event town, so has the number of unique event spaces,’’ says Butch Spyridon, CEO and president of NCVC. “In a vibrant economy such as Nashville, it only makes sense to see expanded activity around the holiday season.’’

Take The Bedford as one example. The Sidco Drive venue is only a month old, although its history goes all the way back to the 1970s when it was Daryl’s.

Pam Cherry, marketing coordinator for the space, says the newly-created party venue has almost 25 bookings scheduled through the end of the year.

New venues are getting their share of the market as are the many downtown hotels and restaurants and, of course, landmark locations such as the Country Music Hall of Fame. Booking less familiar spots like art galleries and music and video studios is a trend that’s gaining in popularity among Nashville’s party crowd.

Size matters

View of an open area on the second floor of The Bedford

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

“Beyond Christmas and holiday parties, I’ve got a wine tasting that’s booked for tomorrow, I’m having a Chamber of Commerce event in there,” says The Bedford’s Cherry. “Because of our size, you can have up to 300 people, so you can get married there and have your wedding reception.”

The Bedford may be new on the scene, but it has a size advantage that corporate players may need for a celebration.

The venue can accommodate 400 seated, 330 with the DJ and dance floor and 600 for a mix and mingle. Plus, there are 300 free parking places for guests.

The Bedford location was sold in 2002, and it became the home of home décor and interior design space ReCreations. And when owners Tim Causey and Richard Epperson consolidated that space on Melrose in 2017, the building became The Bedford Event Venue.

“People have loved our location, easy to find off the interstate at the Harding Place exit,” Cherry says. “Once they come in there, besides the free parking, because the owners own Recreations Furniture, we also include 26 pieces of furniture with the venue rental.”

Cherry says there are more than 200 venues in Middle Tennessee, but she and the owners are confident in their potential success because of the size.

“We found that a lot of venues can only host up to 175 or 200 people,” she explains. “There was a hole in the market for people needing a higher guest count, and there weren’t many venues they could select from.”

Exterior of The Bedford event venue at 4319 Sidco Drive in Nashville. Below, one of three interior levels.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

For anyone who wants to host an event on Monday through Thursday between now and Dec. 31st of 2018, Cherry says they’ll get a free Monday through Thursday six-hour or 12-hour rental free, a buy one, get one free deal.

“Through the week you can rent it for 6 hours,” she says. “One of our companies is using the BOGO rental for their Christmas party and for their nonprofit charity that they support, that gives them a chance to host a free event in there.”

The boutique experience

Noelle is a 224-room, 13-story boutique hotel on a booming 4th Avenue filled with more boutique hotels. Noelle opened December 21, 2017, and is owned by Rockbridge and operated by Makeready.

Stephanie Gray, marketing manager for Noelle, notes the hotel’s Saidee Gallery ballroom features large arching windows, beautiful wood flooring and intricate millwork. The ballroom has seen every kind of configuration of events like dinners, luncheons and public speaking engagements as well as weddings, baby showers and pop-up retail events. And lately, more and more calls about holiday parties are coming in.

“We also have a lot of unique spaces around the hotel that are being used for different types of groups and breakout functions and special events,” Gray says. “We have the bars and the restaurant, and we’ve even had events in the penthouse or different guest rooms.

Sadie Gallery at Noelle

-- Submitted

“We have a lot of connecting rooms that can accommodate different types of guests, whether they come with their families. And we have a lot of relationships with different local makers and creative minds to where if you wanted to do something unique for your attendees, whether it’s on property or taking them out into the community, we have a lot of those unique relationships so we can tee off the conversation and put everyone together.”

Saidee Gallery can accommodate 120 for a sit-down meal and 140 for a reception, and there are still some dates available for holiday parties. But Gray says their event bookings continue to build, especially among those who seek a sense of history and place. Archives on the hotel’s mezzanine level accommodated up to 40 for a dinner or reception.

“The historic elements of the hotel bring a sense of nostalgia to the holidays,” adds Gray, stating that the Trade Room is ideal for holiday receptions with original Tennessee marble walls, terrazzo flooring and crown molding.

The hotel was originally the Art Deco lodging house, Noel Place Hotel, in the 1930s and operated as a hotel until the 1970s when it became a financial building and offices. It reopened as Noelle, with a nod to its past. Architects Feltus Hawkins Design and Nick Dryden of Dryden Architecture and Design worked on the restoration.

Exterior of White Ave Studio, an event Space and photography studio at 2517 White Avenue  in Berry Hill between I-65 and Franklin Road.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

“The details, the architecture, the history of the building, the proximity to Printer’s Alley and the story that comes along with that, that’s all unique to our property,” Gray points out. “We actually speak with a lot of guests that stayed at the original Noel Place Hotel, and now they walk in, and they’re completely taken aback to see what we’ve done with the new space, but it’s still the same footprint as the original hotel.”

‘Off the charts’

Another one of Dryden’s projects, White Avenue Studio, offers up an unusual spot for celebrations.

White Avenue is owned by Scott and Ashley Hylbert who bought the property four years ago when it was Barker Lounge, a doggy daycare, with plans to just use it as a photography studio with different options for backdrops. The Hylberts soon realized they knew the architect across the street, Dryden, and got him involved with the renovation from the beginning.

“He sort of drew up this way more elaborate design that took us not only into photography space, but rental photography, so we could rent it to other photographers and create a business, and then also a boutique event space with an apartment upstairs,” Scott explains. “So, hedging all these different things.”

Scott is a former account executive for music advertising at the Nashville Scene, and his wife, Ashley, is a photographer. They had been looking for an exit point from the weekly.

Their first event was a wedding in 2015 and they are busy with weddings almost every Saturday now.

“We’re doing a lot of rehearsal dinners, a lot of baby showers, year-round,” he says. “We’re doing a lot of fundraisers. For the holidays, a lot of corporate cocktail parties, holiday themed parties.

Scott says their booking business has grown each year since they have been open, but this year has been off the charts, a combination of word of mouth and some marketing.

“When you have 50 to 100 people here, all of a sudden those are people who have now experienced the building,” he says, “Also I just think Nashville has gotten super white-hot when it comes to destination events. There’s new people coming here. People keep finding out about it.”

Now, they are in the process of buying the neighboring property.

“We’re acquiring it this month and we’ll expand at some point,” he adds. “We’re not sure how yet, but probably more like 2019, 2020 timeframe.

Their current space can accommodate 125, without the outdoor space. With nice weather and some tents, the courtyards can easily be included for events with 200 guests.

“You use the space that you want to use, and not feel like it’s cavernous,” Scott says. The main studio space looks industrial from the outside, and then you come inside, and it’s very mid-century modern, very clean.”

The front has a lounge, kitchen, seating area, bathroom, hair and makeup room, and an office. Then through a glass hallway, and up a few stairs, and you are in the main studio space, a 900-square foot, high-ceilinged, white space with lots of natural light flooding through the windows.

The event space is busier than the photography studio rental, which Scott attributes to the sheer number of options for location shooting. “That to me is more saturated than the event space. And there’s just way more money in events.” An event at White Avenue starts at $3,750 for a Saturday night wedding, Fridays start about $2,500. And Thursdays, $1,500.

“We’re kind of working this puzzle, where we’ll do a morning session for $500 for a half-day and $1,000 for a full-day video shoot, and then we can do a smaller event at night,” he says. “If it’s a big event, then we won’t sell the photo day.”

For rent

Artist Ed Nash is also doing double duty, renting out his artist studio for private events. He moved into the East Nashville studio in 2009, and by 2010, he was hosting his first event in the work and gallery space, an open studio showcasing his own art. But since that first event he has rented out the space to people for everything from birthday parties to wine tastings.

“It’s not like it’s always a very typical kind of event,” Nash says.

Nash can accommodate 125 seated at his studio, depending on the configuration the party wants. Then, the layout is planned on a computer.

And each year he is fielding more and more requests for events. “I’ve noticed that people are now booking out the next year earlier in this year,” he adds.

He’s not booked up for this holiday season yet, but his own holiday party co-hosted with Style Blueprint is an annual event he always makes sure he gets on the books.

“It’s a good way to get people to the studio, and it’s not an art event,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of similar clients and they come in and they help me decorate. We get a tree.”

Since it is a living, working studio gallery rather than a typically-empty event space, he can get creative with projectors and music and LED lights.

“It’s definitely eclectic – It’s not your standard event space.”