We finished out a very busy weekend at the restaurant with our 1st Anniversary Party last Sunday. Yes, we are just “one years old”. I will forever be linked to the hotel’s anniversary as we opened the day after my 50th birthday last year, postponing indefinitely the Weekend In Vegas trip my wife had planned for the occasion. Can you believe I have never been to Las Vegas? I have never had a chance to do any of that stuff that “stays in Vegas”. Seems fairly un-American, don’t it?
Anyway, we had an excellent Friday night, with a party of 34 luxury box owners from the New Orleans Arena staying the weekend at the hotel and eating a five courser with wine pairings on our patio courtesy of the New Orleans Hornets NBA team (no Chris Paul, but a great group nonetheless). I love people from Louisiana. As a general rule they are polite, fun, easy-going and love a good meal. Saturday was Saturday, fast paced, good crowd. The best sign I can think of that our “season” has finally arrived is the upturn in quality of guests. During Crush we tend to get a slightly more refined class of dinner guest; those that return every year at the same time, know their food and wine, appreciate quality, and don’t go to the wineries strictly to get hammered. We had a roomful of great people on Saturday and a great vibe as a result.
On Sunday we hosted, along with the hotel, the open house to celebrate our birthday. We solicited a number of wineries to come and pour for the event. They support us by sending us visitors, promoting our restaurant in their tasting rooms, etc, and we do our best to return the favor by showcasing their wines on our wine pairings and by sending folks their way as well. All the wineries that poured at Sunday’s event were doing so for free to help benefit our chosen charity, The Boys’s and Girl’s Club of Napa. I thank them all for stepping up big time to help make our event a success for everyone involved.
Because it’s against the law for licensed establishment to give away alcohol for free, we had to keep the ABC happy and out of our face by asking the public attending the event for a minimum $1 per person donation for the local Boys and Girls Club. So it was basically free; and when you ring that Free Food and Wine Bell, the people come a runnin’. And, as a result, you get the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly.
The good: The party was scheduled to go for three hours, from 1 to 4pm. We started early enough so our friends and neighbors in “The Business” could attend, even if they had to work that night (as we all did). It was great to see so many old comrades I had spent time with “in the blender”, and so many other locals, all chatting with the winery people and having a good time. Many had not been on the property before this, so our purpose for having the party was well served.
The bad: After the party had been rolling for a while, it became apparent that the big crowd we had all been expecting was actually coming: all of the 500 rental wine glasses had been used plus we had washed and buffed about 100 of them to be put back into service. So we had about 600 people trolling the grounds.
There were these two fat women staking out the hors d’oeuvres trays like Turkey Buzzards, pouncing on the plates and eating half of everything before anyone else had a chance; so the server working the room held her tray high up in the air in an attempt to maneuver past them and get some food out to the other people. But these two fat broads, like a couple of overweight Jack Russell terriers, literally jumped and grabbed at the trays as they whisked past them.
The Ugly: Towards the end of the party, things de-evloved into a drunkfest. People would approach the winery tables, and without even stopping their conversation or making eye contact with the person serving them, stick their glass out for wine. One woman, after finally looking at her glass and noticing there was red wine in it, turned to the winery rep and said “Don’t you have any white?” and became indignant when they said no, sorry, we don’t.
Thankfully the party was only scheluled to go for three hours and ended just as things threatened to get out of hand. The canapé-sucking fat broads wandered off, the stupid, drunken redheaded guy who helped himself to some Premier Cru Burgundy off our Sommelier’s table without asking staggered away; and I locked the doors, feeling a little like the only non-zombie left on Night Of The Living Dead.
It’s a double-edged sword, when you give away stuff to the public for free: the people who get some of the free stuff are happy, love your place, have a great time, tell their friends and neighbors about it, and make plans to return. The people who don’t get as much free stuff as they think they should have get pissed off and tell everybody they know how crappy an event it was. I was reminded of this one Dad at Halloween when we had first moved onto a street very popular with Trick Or Treaters. We had run out of candy about 9:00pm, but still had some friends over, the fog machine was still going, strobe lights etc, so some kids had approached us on our porch. “We’re all out of candy, so sorry”. “Supposed to have candy until 10:00 o’clock…” this guy calls to us from the sidewalk as his kids come back empty handed. Oh, sorry pal, we didn’t know. We had never read the Official Guide To Giving Stuff to Ungrateful Assholes where all these rules are listed. This guy probably bitched about the new bike on his birthday because it wasn’t the color he wanted, or said on Christmas morning, “Is that all I get?” Great example to set for your kids, dickhead.
All in all, though, it was a great promotional event, a success for the Boy’s and Girl’ Club ($2500 donated) and us; although some people (probably those that said they had “forgotten their wallet” when they had to make the $1 donation) felt they didn’t get their “money’s worth” and won’t ever return. Like I said, a successful event…