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Local venues brim with bookings for RNC


Some 50,000 people are expected to descend on Cleveland for the Republican National Convention this summer, including 2,470 delegates, 2,302 alternate delegates and 15,000 members of the media. As the July 18-21 dates draw near, many of Cleveland’s popular entertainment and arts sites are seeing a great deal of interest in, and reservations for, private events.
 
About 70 establishments have registered as preferred venues in the RNC official venue guide. Fresh Water talked to event planners at just a handful of locations around the city about their RNC private event bookings. And while organizers won’t divulge all the details, excitement is definitely building.
 
The Breen Center
 
One event that officials can talk about is the announcement that Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah will be taping from July 19 through 22 at the Breen Center for the Performing Arts at St. Ignatius High School.
 
“They approached us some time ago looking for a venue,” says St. Ignatius director of communications Lisa Metro. “It’s a beautiful venue. It’s the most comfortable place to see a show.”
 
While the Breen Center parking lot will be reserved for the show’s trucks, the St. Ignatius student parking lot will be reserved for audience members. Metro says the center seats more than 300 people and has wheelchair access.
 
Other than the parking accommodations, Metro says the other details are being left up to The Daily Show staff. “The proceeds [from the rental] will be reinvested in the St. Ignatius education fund,” she adds.
 
Tickets for all four days of taping have already sold out.
 
W. 25th Street
 
Nearby on W. 25th Street, Nathan Carr, events coordinator for Market Garden Brewery, Bar Cento, Nano Brew, Bier Market and Speakeasy, has booked events at all the bars, mostly for state delegates, he says.
 
“Our arrangement is a little unique because we are multiple locations in one city block,” Carr says of the restaurant group. “One state requested beers from their home state. [The groups] want a lot of the same stuff, but we’re tweaking it a little to make it unique for everyone.”
 
Carr says that, beginning in July, they are making menu changes to give conventioneers a true taste of Cleveland. “We’re creating really neat new things to give them a unique Midwest/Cleveland experience,” he says. “They’re coming from all over the country and maybe haven’t had the Midwest farm-to-table experience.”
 
One parameter Carr says they must follow for the delegate events is that no forks, knives or spoons can be used. “They aren’t able to use utensils on the premises,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to create mouth-sized kinds of food, snackable finger food kinds of items.”
 
For instance, Carr says they are partnering with Mitchell’s Ice Cream to give guests a scoop of ice cream as they board their transportation back to their hotels, but they had to order little wooden paddle spoons for eating the ice cream.
 
Carr says he has booked groups ranging from 80 people to a complete buyout of one location for an event for 700. They are still in the process of booking additional groups. However, Carr urges the locals to come out to W. 25th as well.
 
“With all the hype," he says, "it’s really important for Clevelanders to come out and see how this week-long event really benefits the city and really highlights the city.”
 
The restaurant group is also working on a special brew for the convention: the GOP Pilsner,  “as a shout out for the reason everyone’s here that week,” says Carr.
 
University Circle
 
University Circle’s cultural attractions are also garnering interest from conventioneers. The Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society has already booked two events and has had “a number of showings,” says center director Angie Lowrie, adding that they are hosting a delegate luncheon for about 100 people that will include a self-guided tour and an evening event for about 250.
 
Lowrie says the center will host a cocktail party paired with a tour of nearby Lakeview Cemetery. “There will be a big focus on Rockefeller and his roots in Cleveland,” she says. “Weather-permitting, we will hold the cocktail hour in the outdoor garden and we will have a Rockefeller impersonator.”
 
The center will also have a Rockefeller exhibit open during the convention week.
 
The History Center is also partnering with other WRHS facilities, such as the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum for a dinner and tour and the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel for a fun diversion.
 
Elsewhere on East Boulevard, the Cleveland Botanical Garden has booked three events ranging from 120 to 400 people and has had “multiple groups come out for site tours,” says rental facility associate Bridget Hays.
 
Hays adds that the Botanical Garden can host up to 500 people on the Katherine Philipp Geis Terrace for a cocktail reception, or smaller events in its meeting rooms or gardens.
 
“It’s a great neighborhood," says Hays. "It’s a fun side of Cleveland over here. This is a chance to show off to the delegates such great culture in the city and leverage our collection to raise visibility.”

Playhouse Square
 
In Playhouse Square, Hofbrauhaus has made a few group bookings and is anticipating more. “We’ve received event inquiries and we’re getting everything secure,” says marketing and sales manager Andrea Mueller.
 
Mueller says some groups have rented the entire Hofbrauhaus space, which seats 1,600 and includes the bier hall, bier garden and the Hermit Club, while others have booked just one specific space for an evening.
 
While Mueller says she’s heard that a groups tend to wait until the last minute to book their events, the Hofbrauhaus staff is already in planning mode. “We have customized menus with each of the groups,” Mueller says. “We’ve been working very closely with our executive chefs. “We want to put our best foot forward.”
 
Mueller says they have also gotten calls from other venues in the area who want to partner with Hofbrauhaus. “It’s impressive how we come together to hold each other up,” she says. “I’ve never experienced such outreach and symbiotic support. We’re very excited to have this opportunity to show Clevelanders and guests alike what we have to offer.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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