Party planning goes to town


POSTED: Monday, November 09, 2009

Oh, the bitter irony. Creating the perfect holiday party, an embodiment of the joy, peace, wonder and reverence of the season, comes at such a price. Most times, it means sacrificing one's own joy and peace so that by the time party night commences, wonder and reverence are just fodder for cynical humor.

It's not that the world's getting Grinch-ier. It's just that by the time we add party planning to Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, trolley riding, lunching with Santa and party hopping—not to mention juggling everyday life—we're all just plain exhausted.

Never again say that art isn't practical, as the Chinatown Arts District comes to the rescue. The creative folk there have dreamed up the perfect gift for those overwhelmed by the season but still required to throw a shindig: party planning, with said gatherings held in one of the many interesting venues in the district. These include everything from art galleries and retail stores to a courtyard and a tearoom.

There's literally something for everyone. “;We consider the ambience, decorating and budget—it's all done for you,”; says Marcia Rose Joyner, coordinator for the Arts District Merchants Association. “;You just pick out what you want to eat and drink and let us know the number of people, and we'll help you find the appropriate venue for your specific needs.”;





        Other venues participating:

» The ARTS at Marks Garage (521-2903) accommodates 285 people.


» Chinatown Boardroom (585-7200), 30 people


» Christy Fujii Gallery (226-1212), 25 people


» Kim Taylor Reece Gallery (546-1144), 75 people


» Louis Pohl Gallery (521-1812), 70 people


» Next Door (548-6398), 150 people


» Peggy Chun Gallery (545-4810), 25 people


» The Art Board (536-0121), 25 inside and 250 outside


» Art Treasures Gallery (536-7789), 25 people


» Dragon Upstairs (526-1411), 50 people


» Manifest Hawaii (e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)), 150 people




Catering options are a cut above the usual possibilities because Chinatown is home to numerous top-notch eateries. Select from such restaurants as Epic (fusion fare), Brasserie du Vin (French), Soul de Cuba (Cuban) and a variety of Chinese restaurants. Indigo is an especially notable option since it brings with it 18 years of catering experience.

Also: Think beyond just the holidays. Artful parties in Chinatown are a yearlong option. The following present a few choices:

Over at Black Cat Studio and Art Gallery on Bethel Street, a tattoo parlor/art space, gatherings always come with the presence of a resident tattoo artist. Some folks patronize Black Cat specifically for tattoo parties. If your crowd isn't into permanent skin art, the studio has the capability to offer body painting, airbrush and henna temporary tattoos.

Decor, which includes a permanent wall dedicated to tattoo art and the anything-goes attitude of its owners, lends Black Cat a youthful flair.

“;We're not the typical space, where you drink wine and stare at each other and be weird,”; says co-owner Anthony Carll. “;We want everyone to have a good time, and we'll do whatever it takes to get it to that point.”;

Black Cat has already housed many bashes, including bachelor and bachelorette parties, and regular First Friday receptions for its monthly exhibits. “;It's packed, slam-packed,”; says Carll.

But for a private bash sans the sardine experience, Black Cat comfortably holds 50 people; plus, there's room for a band. “;We'll stay open until whatever. We're laid back and like to have fun.”;

Black Cat doesn't have a formal fee schedule, so interested folks should just give a call at 524-7580.

Meanwhile, just a couple of blocks away on Nuuanu Avenue, Tea at 1024 revels in another world, that of a quaint, feminine setting abounding with pink and floral decor. A mainstay in Chinatown after a decade, the tearoom already is well known not only for its tea service, but for its fun factor. Patrons can pick their own teacups and saucers and wear one of the room's wardrobe of garden-party hats and feather boas.

The venue has long hosted private parties for 20 or more, usually on Sundays when the tearoom is closed to the public, or at night. With the guarantee of 35 people, they'll close on a Saturday as well.

Tea at 1024 currently charges $15.95 per person, but fees are subject to change. Call 521-9596.

It's safe to say that the rest of Chinatown's venues fall somewhere between the extremes of tattoos and tea parties. Many of these will appeal to those who love to put their own stamp on a soiree.

Chinatown Courtyard, along Smith Street, offers the only outdoor setting in the area.

“;It's outdoors and it's not,”; says owner Jody Hunt, explaining that with a 12-foot veranda, guests can enjoy an outdoor setting without being subject to the elements.

Coordinator Joyner believes the site is perfect for a child's birthday. Young ones can run around on the grass and make all the noise they want, while protected on all sides from the street.

Although the courtyard setup isn't conducive to a formal sit-down dinner or spacious enough to house a band (single musicians work well, however), a 3,000 square-foot room upstairs will suit just fine.

“;It's nice. It's a 109-year-old building, so there are high ceilings and big windows. The room itself isn't fancy but it can be decorated,”; says Hunt. “;It's a place for someone creative.”;

Courtyard rentals runs about $150 per hour, plus a flat fee for the room. Call 262-5930.

For versatility, Joyner also recommends the Pegge Hopper Gallery on Nuuanu Avenue, which boasts a triple-level space that includes an open lanai overlooking the district. Call 524-1160.

Our final profile here is for the sophisticated host who desires both high concept and complete service.

INTO, the interior design boutique on Hotel Street, is transitioning into a “;retail-cocktail boutique and lounge,”; says Cyrina Hadad, the store's marketing director. Translation: Right now, that means it's half retail, half party venue. In January, armed with a liquor license, INTO will become a lounge/retail boutique.

The draw of INTO is the boutique concept of customization.

“;We offer full-service sit-down dinners, and we coordinate everything from invitations to entertainment,”; says owner Alan Carrell, a professional interior designer with experience in catering. “;We have a meeting where clients share their needs, and we come back with two to three concepts.”;

Carrell says his space is also great for morning meetings, where companies can hold coffee-and-pastry brainstorming sessions away from the office.

“;INTO can become whatever your heart desires,”; Hadad says.

INTO can accommodate up to 50 people. Call 536-2211.