Good Night Mr. Lewis: Holiday on Ice

imageYou’ve got to pick up every stitch / must be the season of the witch. — Donovan

The nightmare on Wall Street will soon be known as “the pinch that stole Christmas,” as corporations pull back or call off the season to be jolly. I spoke to William Curran of A Curran Affair, a major event planning firm, about what the Christmas corporate party season will look like, and it’s not rosy. “Everything is on hold, cut back, or eliminated all together.” He estimates at least a 50% loss of events and unique strategies on the parties still happening. Many firms faced with a no bonus situation for their employees are scrambling to put something together to preserve morale.

Some party planners are grouping different firms together to form one big event, thereby splitting the room rental and production costs. In many cases, DJs will be cut from the budget, and iPods will just have to do. Bands and other forms of entertainment are out. Other party planners are shopping their clients around, looking for a group rate for a week. They pitch five small parties, each held on one of the weekdays, figuring desperate clubs (with few planners banging on their doors) will give them a global discount. The four-hour party has been cut to three, and the extravagant affairs that still opt for open bars (at $30 a head per hour) are now settling for passed hors d’oeuvres or a cheap buffet.

The $75 to $100 per head/per hour is dropping down to the $45 mark. There are even firms passing on hard liquor altogether and going with the $10 to $15 per head/hour beer, wine, and soda soiree. The cut from the four-hour to three-hour event is actually down to 2 hours and 59 minutes in many cases. In past seasons, it was the industry standard to provide transportation after 9 p.m.; William says that contracts for events are being written to run from 6 p.m. to 8:59 p.m. to avoid this cost. It’s an insurance thing! Owners I’ve spoken to state the obvious: An atmosphere of fear will cut drastically into their year-end revenue stream. Christmas and New Year’s revenues often carry nightclubs through the brutal winter months of January and February. Without this loot, marginal clubs may decide to close down, do a cheap redux, and relaunch come spring thaw. If there is a thaw, and not just more meltdown.

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