Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Politics

Local venues begin booking for Republican convention

TAMPA — The California delegates have more than politics on their minds for the Republican National Convention.

They want to party.

The group booked Jannus Live for an event on the second night of the convention and plans to hire a band, said Lynda Rucker, the St. Petersburg music venue's marketing director.

The festivities could go into the early-morning hours with the party not starting until 11 p.m., Rucker said.

The California delegates won't be the only ones cutting loose. It's going to be a week full of parties across Tampa Bay.

On Friday, some of the 73 "official venues" working with convention organizers found out which events they will be hosting. While details are still being finalized, many sites are ramping up for a busy and profitable week.

Glazer Children's Museum executive director Al Najjar and in-house caterer, Puff n' Stuff, have begun planning with Newsweek and the Daily Beast website for an evening event Aug. 28 and a luncheon Aug. 29.

Also in the works: An Aug. 28 cocktail reception for the Tennessee delegation and another Aug. 29 for the Lifetime Network, "and several other requests floating around," Najjar said.

"This is the biggest concentration of events we've ever had," he said. "It's tricky for us to have this many multiples in the same day, so we're really happy to have Puff n' Stuff and all their abilities to accommodate us."

The Florida Aquarium has yet to sign any agreements, but delegates will certainly be diving in the shark tank.

"All our space is booked, inside and outside in Explore A Shore,'' said Jason Carroll, director of sales, as well as the aquarium's 150-passenger, 72-foot Bay Spirit II catamaran. He declined to name the "four or five state delegations" he is expecting.

Carroll noted event planners are asking for "Tampa flavor," such as Cuban food and cigar rolling.

So far, five organizations have booked events at the Centre Club, said Robby Allender, the Tampa venue's private events director.

Those include the Kansas State Delegation, the Republican National Lawyers Association, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Libre Initiative, Allender said.

"I've been told there are more coming my way," he said. "It's been a little nerve-racking, especially at first since we hadn't heard anything or done a tour in a while. But it seems like things are working out."

To be on the "official venues" list, facilities had to agree to hold off on making any deals on their own and wait for the RNC to match them up with potential clients. The venues and party organizers then negotiate their own deals.

The Channelside attractions of Splitsville, Tinatapas, Howl at the Moon and Stump's Supper Club are attracting a lot of attention. Tiffany Davies, a spokeswoman for the venues, said they are in the process of booking 16 to 20 events during the convention week.

"We feel as though we have been pretty lucky so far with the venue assignments that we have gotten from the (Committee on Arrangements)," Davies said in an e-mail.

Davies declined to identify the interested groups until negotiations are finalized.

Tampa Club general manager Barry Shields said he's been assigned 10 groups, including the Republican Party of Florida for several lunches and dinners; and an evening cocktail reception for the Illinois delegation.

But perhaps most challenging: The 11:30 p.m. start time for a wrap party, booked by National Convention Events for 350 people.

"We anticipate it going until 2:30 a.m.," Shields said from the restaurant on the 42nd floor of the Bank of America building in downtown Tampa.

"August is normally our slowest month of the year,'' Shields said. "We'll definitely be using temporary employment services and sharing employees with other clubs. It's going to be a busy, crazy week. Having the RNC in town could prove to be one of our better months of the year."

The Tampa Bay History Center is finalizing a contract with a major media entity to rent significant portions of the entire building, according to Manny Leto, director of marketing. "If that comes to fruition, it would be a great opportunity to showcase the history center to a national audience."

He did say, however, that such a booking would mean the museum, which is in the proposed secured Event Zone, would be closed to the public until the conclusion of the convention.

While some venues are figuring out how to deal with multiple events, others are left waiting for good news.

The St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts has no official bookings as of yet, said Allison Canfield, manager of special events.

"We've done several dozen tours and have a couple of people who have expressed interest," she said. "We are hoping. Our fingers and our toes are crossed."

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.

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