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Dimming the holiday party lights
by Sarah Cooper
Dec 03, 2009 | 1191 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme -
Gabriel Ruiz, a banquet shift leader at John Ascuaga's Nugget, prepares a room for a holiday dinner on Thursday. Overall, company-sponsored parties in the area are down this holiday season.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Gabriel Ruiz, a banquet shift leader at John Ascuaga's Nugget, prepares a room for a holiday dinner on Thursday. Overall, company-sponsored parties in the area are down this holiday season.
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In years past, the lamps were lit, the cider was poured and festivities flourished in December as companies hosted annual holiday parties. In a recession, those picture window holiday preparations have changed.

Fewer companies nationwide are planning holiday parties this year – 62 percent compared with 77 percent in 2008, according to a survey by Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Sparks is no exception to the national trend.

One of the city’s largest employers, John Ascuaga’s Nugget, will not be holding a large Christmas party for employees and their children as they have done in years past, according to company spokesman Mike Traum. Rather, holiday celebrations will have to come in the form of employee-run potlucks and pie breaks.

The celebration cut is another result of the recession, Traum said, as well as an effort to consider the atmosphere after necessary staff cuts.

“We really want to be sensitive to some of the adjustments we had to make earlier in the year with layoffs,” Traum said. “It wouldn’t be right to do something out of the ordinary when we had to lay so many people off.”

The Nugget handed pink slips to about 24 employees at the beginning of October.

The downtrend in company holiday parties has hit the Nugget from the business side as well – fewer local companies are using the Nugget’s convention and catering for their own holiday parties, according to Traum.

“Some of the companies just are not booking anything at all,” Traum said.

While he would not disclose the Nugget’s holiday numbers, Traum said that bookings for Christmas parties were about the same as they were last year in 2008. However, he added that 2008 was a significant drop from 2007’s booking numbers.

“There has definitely been a decline,” he said.

The tone was similar at the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority’s Convention Center. According to RSCVA spokeswoman Jill Stockton, the building will play host to one holiday party this year. However, Stockton is not surprised.

“Because our convention center is so large, it takes a big group to book that,” she said.

Stockton added that the RSCVA pushes holiday party space seekers to the local casinos.

In an effort to attract more holiday business bashes, the Nugget is switching up its offerings. The hotel and casino is attempting to tempt office parties with $20 per guest wine tastings and appetizer plates.

“We are trying to be proactive and creative,” Traum said of the marketing move.

The Nugget, however, hopes that the local holiday party hiatus is only temporary.

“Without a doubt this is seen as only a temporary thing,” Traum said. “We are certainly encouraging our employees to be merry and enjoy the holidays in their own special groups. … Many will do little potlucks within their departments. “

In the meantime, businesses will continue to keep their eyes toward the future when, hopefully, the economy will be better and holiday parties will once again pick up.

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