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Holiday parties keep restaurants, hotels busy

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

Haven't finalized plans for your holiday party?

Better get on it.

Caterers, restaurants and hotels around the area say many dates are already booked solid, leaving few openings for those who haven't firmed things up yet.

"If you want certain days in December, you're out of luck," said Kathryn Dagar-Albarado with Dagar's Catering. "We can still work with you, but you're going to need to be flexible."

Fridays and Saturdays are especially busy this month and next at the year-old W Hotel in downtown Austin, said Regan Ellmer, director of catering and convention services.

"Those were booked long ago for large groups, some as early as March," he said. "I believe the level of interest we're seeing this year is higher than comparable hotels because we're the shiny, new penny."

Wednesdays and Sundays are options for party planners who waited too long, Ellmer said.

Space is tight at Uchiko, as well. The restaurant has a private room that can seat up to 34 diners, and it also caters events.

"We sent out an email blast in mid-September and another in October, and our phones started blowing up," events coordinator Charisse Sayers said. "For the most part, every day is full."

Most venues allow hosts to personalize their events with custom menus, decorations and other offerings.

Gatherings at Alamo Drafthouse, for example, are typically based on popular films.

"A few years ago, we realized that the standard holiday office party could use a reboot," said Henri Mazza, the Austin-based theater chain's chief creative officer.

"You can schedule a private screening of 'Miracle on 34th Street' or even a more out-of-the-box Christmas film like 'Die Hard.'"

At the W, bartenders are crafting a special holiday drink.

"It'll be something very unique and iconic," said Shaady Ghadessy, the hotel's marketing manager.

Uchiko's chefs frequently serve up custom-made cakes.

"Our customers tell us all these crazy flavors of cakes they'd like," Sayers said. "We can make a cake out of any ingredients."

While most hosts are still obsessing over cakes, drinks and other details for this year's Thanksgiving and Christmas events, it's not too early to think about 2012, party planners say.

The sooner you act, the better.

"We have some repeat clients who will book next year the day after their event happens," she said.

"They want to make sure they get exactly what they want."

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987