When that coveted dining spot happens to be on the water, there’s a built-in bonus for guests. Here’s a closer look at several superb settings.
This Autograph Collection Hotel sits on the shore of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay near Petoskey. “It’s a knockout,” says Matt Alagna, director of sales. “It’s the crème de la crème venue for weddings, corporate meetings and associations. It’s just stunning.”
The meeting space totals 6,600 square feet, with the largest room, The Arlington, holding up to 180 banquet-style and 330 theater-style. With breakout rooms, 125 guest rooms, and the cottages on the property, there are plenty of event options.
The main dining room, Vintage Chophouse | Wine Bar, serving lunch and dinner, was just redone. “It’s a classic chophouse with exquisite cocktails and a sommelier,” says Alagna. The casual Sagamore’s is open for breakfast and becomes a group space for lunch and dinner. An outdoor patio is a plus.
The menu is flexible for events. “We say ‘yes’ way more than we say ‘no,’” says Alagna. “Our chefs love a challenge and we really pride ourselves on going the extra distance.”
Known for its exceptional food and wine, the Up North waterfront venue often caters to high-level clientele. “It’s a spectacular setting, but if you don’t have the service and the staff to back up the quality of the facility, it doesn’t work,” he says. “We’re in the hospitality business.”
Other offerings include a life-size chessboard, beachfront hammocks and canvas cabanas for rent. “We can contour a cooking class or a spa table and golf is a big part of Bay Harbor,” says Alagna. “People are looking for different. They want what’s special to the area, like bike trails and wine tastings. We start with the unfettered natural beauty here and pair with it to make the perfect fit.”
Therese Johnson, assistant director, Division of Continuing Medical Education, Wayne State University School of Medicine, says The Inn at Bay Harbor is a perfect example of the beauty of northern Michigan and the Great Lakes.
“After holding 19 medical education conferences there, neither the venue nor its setting has lost any of what attracted me to first hold meetings there 18 years ago, shortly after it debuted.
“After all of these years,” she says, “I am sure that the charm of The Inn is one of the main reasons we enjoy such a large number of repeat attendees at our conferences.”
Situated downtown along the Saginaw River, the Riverfront hotel’s three indoor and outdoor dining venues are ideal for events with plenty of photo opportunities. The upscale, casual Grille, which features American and regional cuisine and outdoor seating in the summer, is complemented by the adjoining Lounge and the seasonal dining patio.
With a restaurant and a banquet conference center, “the menu can be customized and the sky’s the limit,” says Leslie Thompson, CMP, assistant general manager and director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “We try to incorporate some of the local businesses, like an artisan cheese company and Cops & Doughnuts. That way we’re giving visitors a taste of Bay City, which is growing leaps and bounds on the culinary side.”
With more than 100 nearby dining and shopping options, she says they organize “a lot of groups to take advantage of the downtown and all the nightlife we have here.”
Hotel planners can organize anything from scavenger hunts and pub crawls to boating excursions and dinner cruises.
The 8,000-square-foot ballroom can hold 500; for a conference, a group size of 250 works well and there are 150 guest rooms and suites.
Pam Badour, Head Start Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency administrative assistant, hosts yearly events there for up to 320 people.
“The location is a big plus as it is centered in the middle of downtown Bay City, on the river and within walking distance to many unique shops and restaurants,” she says. “The staff is wonderful and treats us as a part of their family. They go above and beyond and are always very attentive to our needs. We’ll continue to hold our events there for many years to come.”
In West Michigan, Boatwerks is the only yearround waterfront venue in the Holland area that can accommodate up to 300 people. “It’s a great feature for groups to get out of the office, and enjoy great food and drink, and get a nice breath of fresh air at a private entertaining space,” says Jordyn Stump, the restaurant’s corporate event specialist.
The Lake Macatawa facility opened its new 5,600-square-foot Event Center, featuring a 3,300-square-foot banquet and conference room, in 2015.
For a show, Boatwerks does double-duty. “Each show has around 220 people and then we flip the room and do it all over again,” she says. With the rental of the ballroom comes the outside courtyard with a view of Lake Macatawa and fun activities such as lawn games.
Plated or buffet options are available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “The chef is really great about working with clients’ requests and special dietary needs,” says Stump. “With service, we try to be as efficient as possible to accommodate the timing of speeches and first dances, and we’re known for our friendly staff.”
Janet Barz, administrative assistant for Haworth in Holland, says her two recent events went smoothly. “Jordyn Stump was easy to work with and very responsive to emails, answering any questions that came up. She even made menu suggestions based on our guests’ food intolerances.”
Along Lake St. Clair in Grosse Pointe Farms, The War Memorial offers a picture-perfect venue frequently chosen for special events. Its recently renovated ballroom holds up to 250 seated guests and boasts floor to ceiling lake views. “It almost feels like you’re on a cruise ship,” says Nikki Charbonneau, director of sales and events.
Outdoor spaces are part of the charm. “There’s a beautiful sunrise in the morning and throughout the day the water changes. One minute it’s moody and dark and then the sun peeks through,” she says. “For a corporate event, you can have a beautiful team cocktail hour or a meet-and-greet overlooking the water.”
For those seeking a more intimate setting with ornate details, the historical Alger House can hold around 124 seated guests. “Brides love to use it for rehearsal dinners, showers and engagement parties. It’s a unique setup for strolling weddings and it works perfectly for corporate parties,” says Charbonneau.
The chef has a reputation for being creative. “He likes to spread his culinary wings,” she says. “He’s all about working with the client to create that special meal. When people come here to have a tasting, they’re constantly wowed by it.”
The variety of spaces, from breakout rooms to an auditorium that holds more than 400, is impressive.
Candice Clark-Bertschy, author and owner of Client Connections, held the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs induction and elevation ceremony at The War Memorial for 30 guests. Her husband Raymond Bertschy is president of the local chapter of the worldwide culinary organization, which had a quick turnaround when their original plan didn’t pan out for their bailliage, the biggest event of the year.
“We only had a month, but the chef was getting what we were trying to accomplish,” says Clark-Bertschy. “He’s very creative, flexible, super friendly and professional. We had elaborate place settings and a six-course meal and wine pairings. They’re so innovative and they did a great job.”