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Holiday Parties Returning at Firms

November 04, 2002|Wei Gu | Reuters

NEW YORK — Companies may be slashing jobs and other costs, but one ritual luxury in the business world is making a comeback this year -- the annual holiday party.

Last year was one of the worst holiday seasons, as many U.S. firms canceled their festivities because the mood just didn't feel right after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Although the Grinch may have throttled corporate entertainment budgets in recent months and staffs are being told to cut back on limousine services and other luxuries, the annual party is proving to be resilient.

"Companies may have a tendency to scale back the parties, but to eliminate them, it's a pretty scary message," said Kathleen McKenna, a partner at law firm Proskauer Rose, who advises on corporate holiday parties.

Some firms have returned to this routine. Cable network MSNBC, a joint venture between Microsoft Corp. and NBC, told its staff that after two straight years of cancellation because of recession, it's going to break out the party glasses again.

Party planners are exhilarated at the change.

"I got seven inquiries of company parties yesterday alone," said Lawrence Harvey, director of catering at the swank Plaza Hotel. "It might be one of the best years we have ever had."

However, don't expect Cristal champagne and Beluga caviar at the annual office shindig. It's more likely to be wine in a box and cheddar cheese on crackers.

"The budget is about a third less," said David Chase, director of catering at the Ritz-Carlton New York in lower Manhattan.

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