- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

Companies are still holding holiday parties this year but are toning them down.
Bosses are opening up their homes to their employees. Lobbies and conference rooms are turning into festive locations all in an effort to ring in the holiday season, despite a weakened economy, the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the war on terrorism.
"The big splashy parties are not happening," said Susan Lacz Niemann of Ridgewells Caterers in Bethesda. "It's back to the basics."
Three out of four employers will host holiday parties for their employees this year, according to a survey by the Bureau of National Affairs, a Washington publishing company. That's about the same number of employers that held parties the past seven years.
Restaurants and hotels are still housing corporate fetes, but the mood and ambience have changed.
Patton Boggs, a law firm on M Street NW, is again holding its party at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. However, this year the party will consist of dinner and dancing instead of lavish martini bars and casino gambling, said Terry Isner, chief marketing officer.
"We're going to try to make it more personal," he said. "It's about being more intimate."
The party, for about 600 guests, could have been handled at the law firm's new conference center and refurbished lobby, but officials decided to keep the affair at the hotel.
"It's the hospitality industry that needs our help," Mr. Isner said.
Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens, an advertising agency in Arlington, hosted an employee holiday party at a restaurant downtown for about 70 people Saturday.
"Our party was festive but it was a lot more serious than it used to be," said Ron Owens, senior vice president, strategic marketing. "Everyone was in the holiday spirit and I think they were very happy that they were among their extended family."
Like many corporate affairs this holiday season, the mood was different.
"With life in general, there's been an attitudinal shift," Mr. Owens said. "You can tell beyond the smiles, beyond the Christmas carols there is a hint of sadness."
But Mr. Owens said this holiday season people are a bit more grateful for what they have.
Mr. Isner agrees.
"I think [the employees] will all go into this thankful … and happy we're having this party," he said.
Ridgewells is busy preparing for holiday events this year but is not as busy with corporate events as in the past, Mrs. Niemann said. The amount of money employers are spending has definitely dropped.
Companies will spend an estimated $30 per employee for the holiday party a $5 drop from last year, according to the Bureau of National Affairs' survey.
Patton Boggs has scaled back on the cost of its party because the firm is "being budget-conscious," Mr. Isner said.
Creative Parties Ltd. has seen a slight drop in business, but the Bethesda event-planning company is still busy with corporate parties.
"[Companies] want morale to remain high so they are still doing these parties," said Rita Bloom, president of Creative Parties.

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