What dot-com crash?


After a few sobering years following 9/11 and the stock market plunge, corporate holiday parties are emerging from hibernation.


Just consider Napster Inc., the Los Angeles-based music-downloading service, which took over three rooms at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel this month: one decked out as a full casino, a second for a dinner buffet and a third for a bar, live bands and DJs who performed for the 500 employees and guests.


"You have ups and downs as a company, and you want to reward the people who work so hard every day," said Dana Harris, a Napster spokeswoman. "It's important to let employees know you value them."


A poll by Office Team, a Menlo Park-based staffing firm, found that 75 percent of Fortune 1000 companies were holding an office party this year, compared with just 36 percent four years ago during the midst of the dot-com bust.


Another survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based staffing firm, found that 23 percent of companies throwing holiday parties are spending between 5 and 20 percent more this year than last.


"It could be improved earnings or bigger cash reserves, or it could simply be that after several years of no or low-cost parties, companies may think it is time to get back into the holiday spirit," said John A. Challenger, the firm's chief executive.


More restraint
Among the hot local venues for the holiday gatherings: the Roosevelt, whose recent makeover has made it a top venue among Hollywood celebrities and hipsters.


"Over the past year, we have seen many more corporate parties in terms of volume," said Ernie Carrillo, the hotel's catering director. "After 9/11, we saw company spending patterns change drastically across the board. It's much better now, but still not as extravagant as before Sept. 11, say, in the late 1990s."


Also popular is the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles, where public relations director Sarah Cairns said ballrooms and event facilities are booked nearly every day.


Even for companies holding lavish parties, however, there often is more restraint that in past years.


The party for DirecTV Group Inc.'s 1,500 employees will take place in a huge tent next to its headquarters rather than the Biltmore or the Los Angeles Convention Center and it is on a weekday, rather than a Saturday night as in the past.


"It's more cost-effective for us to have it on-site," said Bob Marsocci, corporate communications director for El Segundo-based DirecTV. The company resumed its holiday parties last year after a three-year hiatus.

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