Hollywood’s event business has returned in high style, but as guest expectations have evolved, planners are now tasked with adjusting their playbooks to create an equally positive experience for all comers.
Those accommodations take many forms — from welcoming differently abled guests, to serving food that satisfies attendees’ wide-ranging dietary restrictions, to providing sophisticated, upscale non-alcoholic beverages and buzz-free bars, to creating quiet areas for guests who need less sensory stimulation.
All agree that effective client communication and anticipatory prep are what sets events apart.
“The answer is never no,” says Jacquelyn Cryan, senior events manager of Botanical Hospitality Group, the firm behind West Hollywood’s E.P. & L.P. (where Apple TV+ celebrated “Loot”) and Hollywood’s Grandmaster Recorders. Catering menus are all adaptable. “We’re conscious there’s an option available for everyone, there’s so many different ways we can alter menus.”
“Vegan has moved mainstream,” says Gina Wade, head of private events at the Aster in Hollywood. Gluten-free requests are anticipated and met; for a seated dinner, Wade expects a spreadsheet of dietary restrictions, allergies and preferences submitted in advance.
“Holiday parties feel smaller this year,” she says, and clients might book a four-course dinner with wine pairings rather than a big blowout. “Because we were home for so long, people want to have conversations, want to interact and people want an intimate experience with well-curated food.”
Creative food styling accompanies custom menus at the Four Seasons Los Angeles. “Kid friendly sets-ups for adult food stations with whimsical touches are in,” says Jennifer Rebello, director of catering. Tater Tots served on little trees and elaborate fruit and pastry carts with pops of color for a morning confab are two recent examples of the hotel’s renowned imaginative details.
Upgraded non-alcoholic beverages are also taking the spotlight. “We make sure we have high-level options, from the mixers to botanical cocktails,” says Cryan of the alcohol-free party-drink trend. “The premise is that guests shouldn’t feel any different than anyone else at the event, just enjoying another option.”
“People want to feel and look like they are having a drink but are not having a ‘drink,’” echoes Eric Weiner senior events sales manager at the SLS Beverly Hills Hotel. Corporate events at SLS these days often start with a signature mocktail rather than a spirited one, he finds.
On the top floor of La Brea Avenue’s Heimat (the new, next-level gym and club from RSG Group), the pink-and-aquamarine 5,000 sq.ft. Mother Tongue restaurant from chef Michael Mina serves up a Zero Degree passion fruit margarita. The hero ingredient is the Spirit of Tequila from Free Spirits, which created a whole line of non-alcoholic bourbons, gins and other pours. It’s just one of the wellness forward restaurant’s housemade non-alcoholic drinks.
Mother Tongue’s outdoor seating is multi-colored and ready for every season; the new eatery joins a growing list of stylish indoor/outdoor venues. The Aster offers its sixth-floor Hollywood deck and Lemon Grove restaurant’s patio (open to non-members). In downtown Los Angeles, the Conrad Los Angeles lobby, terrace and San Laurel restaurant are framed by views of Frank Gehry’s iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall.
“It’s an incredible experience in overlooking the skyline, having that vibrancy,” says Stephanie Leavitt, the Conrad Los Angeles director of sales and marketing of the hotel’s eighth- floor spaces, which can be transformed for events. For the L.A. Phil’s gala, the hotel’s entire eighth floor and pool deck became the after-party location for 350.
“We’ll take any idea, jump in and try it,” she says of the luxury hotel’s event staff’s willingness to test the boundaries of traditional event spaces.
Activations, food service and flow are reviewed on the macro and micro levels for equitable guest experiences, says Marissa Kiersch, vice president brand and experiential at 15|40 Prods., reflecting the industry’s evolution when it comes to inclusivity. The firm produced November’s Party on the Pier benefitting UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, creating an event where inclusivity meant every guest could participate in the day of boardwalk games and rides. Hollywood’s event planners continue to adjust and be limited only by imagination.
Check out these new and accommodating Los Angeles event spaces for hosting intimate to grand functions:
Downtown Los Angeles
Conrad Los Angeles
Frank Gehry’s striking architecture gives the 305-room Conrad Los Angeles hotel an Instagram-worthy look. Its state-of-the-art Grand Park Ballroom is the city’s newest. A dedicated elevator bank goes directly to the eighth-floor ballroom and outdoor terrace. Four connected conference rooms are accessed through their own foyer. Food and beverage are handled by Jose Andres Group, which also oversees the hotel’s vibrant restaurants, San Laurel and the fully outdoors Agua Viva. Presidential suites double as bookable venues with outdoor terraces for meetings or dining for up to 15.
100 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
The members-only Aster officially launched in July just off the corner of Hollywood and Vine. There’s a multitude of event spaces and possibilities within the six-floor building including the rooftop bar lounge and Lemon Grove restaurant (open to the public) with chef Marcel Vigneron at the helm. There’s a 35-room boutique hotel (open to non-members) and a 40-seat plush cinema and nearby club lounge for post-or-pre-screening events. There’s also a fully outfitted Cabaret Room complete with stage, green room and pro light and sound systems.
1717 Vine St., Los Angeles
Mid-City Los Angeles
The versatile outdoor terrace at Mother Tongue was converted into a greenhouse for the launch of Katy Perry’s De Soi — her line of sparkling non-alcoholic aperitifs. The pairing of product line and site made perfect sense as Mother Tongue (atop the private Heimat gym and club) specializes in a fitness-forward menu of healthy, natural ingredients. A permanent canopy and built-in heat lamps make the patio and bar mostly weatherproof; pink booths and aquamarine tile add a tropical vibe.
960 N. La Brea Ave., 4th Floor, Los Angeles
Beverly Hills Adjacent
Garden Room & Terrace at the SLS Hotel
This space is a bright, indoor/outdoor pavilion with tile flooring, lots of natural light, oversized mirrors and a remote-controlled roof that retracts. Fully climate controlled, the space is in demand for its flexibility and its indoor/outdoor flow. There is a separate entrance off the valet so guests can skip the hotel lobby. The hotel is undergoing a revamp to its public spaces: freshly buzzing is the Wasp and the Wig, a hidden bar with a speakeasy vibe. The hotel’s all-white Albert ballroom and first-floor conference rooms open to a dedicated terrace for more outdoor space.
465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles
Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura
On the street devoted to looking fabulous, Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura takes dining and decor to exclusive heights atop the Gucci store. The showplace interior evokes an exquisite Italian villa. There’s plentiful greenery, too, and the roof is opened when weather permits. The cuisine, from chef Mattai Agazzi, is as rarefied as the décor. Standout dishes are the insalata di mare and a playful “pizza” of camouflaged risotto. Creative desserts and breads are made in-house; the wine list features rare vintages and unique varietals from boutique producers. Event planners often book full buyouts (50 people) for lunch or dinner. Off-site catering — such as for the LACMA Art + Film gala dinner — is available.
347 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills
Penthouse Suite, Beverly Wilshire
On the 14th floor of the Beverly Wing of the storied Beverly Wilshire (a Four Seasons Hotel), the completely renovated three-bedroom penthouse suite is rich in views and features a wrap-around terrace and elegant dining room that can host 10-12. The apartment-sized suite comes complete with show kitchen, matched marble tile bathroom the size of a small studio and a separate media room. Catering is available from Wolfgang Puck’s CUT, the hotel’s BLVD or in-house dining.
9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hils