A Flair for the Festive
Striking the right tone with holiday décor
Almost every restaurant and bar in the country decorates for the holidays, and for good reason. Not only does it make a space festive and fun, it’s smart business. Even on a budget, a few strings of lights can make a familiar spot seem welcoming and new, while those with grander ambitions can transform a space into an Instagram-worthy holiday destination.
It’s all about finding the right balance, according to Adam Burke, vice president of operations at The Smith, which has locations in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Throughout December, its restaurants are adorned with giant red bows outside and wreaths and colored lights in the dining rooms.
“Our approach is subtle, but we love to bring the fun and joy of the holidays into each of our restaurants without being overwhelming,” Burke says. “We want to make sure the décor is festive, while being conscious that not all of our guests celebrate in the same way.”
At Boston’s Eastern Standard, general manager Caroline Markham keeps the décor bright, while steering clear some of the more common motifs.
“It’s an embrace of the changing of the seasons, so we look for more neutral winter stuff and hang a ton of white lights,” she explains. “We also choose specific colored Christmas ornaments, nothing red, nothing blue.”
Not everybody is subdued in their approach. Rose Previte makes sure her Washington, D.C. restaurant, Compass Rose, is always ready for a party.
“We decorate a lot because it’s the type of place people come for celebrations,” Previte explains. “We’ll do colored lights, and we’ve done animal scenes. One year it was reindeer, one year it was owls. I’m not going to lie, it can be a little bit gaudy, but it’s fun."
Just how festive can a venue get? If anyone would know, it’s Joann Spiegel, general manager of the Miracle family of Christmas-themed, pop-up bars. Now in its sixth year, the company has plans to convert more than 100 bars and event spaces throughout the country into Miracle holiday bar and Beachbum Jerry Presents: Sippin' Santa tiki bar locations.
“Christmas is a huge blend of many different traditions, but our take on it is a little tacky sometimes,” Spiegel says. “There’s a lot of nostalgia and it’s very retro, and we have a bit of a naughty Santa since it’s in a cocktail environment."
The bars all offer an upscale menu of craft cocktails, but that seems secondary to the décor.
“People are going to these locations for the visual aspect, to be transported through nostalgia,” she explains. “All bars decorate for Christmas, but with us it’s cranked up and completely saturated.”