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Venue variations: Multiple party/meeting/reception spaces have opened in Pulaski County recently

by Kimberly Dishongh, Rachel O'Neal | August 28, 2022 at 2:19 a.m.
Cypress Social, a restaurant and venue at 7103 Cock of the Walk Lane in North Little Rock (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

Those who wish to throw a chic soiree or fancy gala, but want an alternative to hotel ballrooms, are in luck these days.

As Little Rock wakes up from the pandemic and stretches its social circles, party throwers and partygoers alike will find that a number of event venues have popped up … from an iconic Quapaw Quarter home and a rustic vineyard to an old Kroger store.

With the fall social season almost upon us, we decided to take a closer look at some of these relatively new party spaces dotting Pulaski County. (This list is nowhere near comprehensive. We contacted as many new-ish event centers as we could find; below is information from those whose owners or managers returned our calls before deadline.)

Here is what we learned.

A TOUCH OF QUALITY

  photo  The Selfie Lounge at A Touch of Quality Event Center, 1715 Scott St. in Little Rock (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
 
 
Felandria Jackson, one of the owners of A Touch of Quality at 1715 Scott St., says the event space opened its doors in January 2017.

“We have a pretty large family and we were always looking for affordable venues — and I want to emphasize affordable,” she says. “And we found that if you use hotels and certain other places, they only want you to use their vendors and their food and their drinks.

“We knew that there are people who want to bring their own caterers … so that’s one of the key things that people like about us,” Jackson adds. “We don’t require you to use anyone specific.”

The space has been rented for small weddings, receptions, parties, business meetings, conferences and even comedy shows.

“One of our signatures is we have a selfie lounge and every time someone comes in they are like ‘Oh, I love the selfie lounge’ because, of course, everyone likes to take pictures.”

The venue also boasts a kitchen, a dressing room for brides, a buffet area and on-site tables and chairs.

CITY CENTER

Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock bought the former Kroger building at 315 N. Shackleford Road with the intention of housing a food pantry, dental clinic and clothing closet for people in need — a City Center.

“It was a big, big space — it’s over 120,000 square feet — and we knew we didn’t need all that for a community center,” says missions pastor Matt Hubbard. “So we also used a good chunk of it as an event center to host fundraisers or, like today [the day of the interview], we’ve got the Arkansas Department of Education in for their annual convention.”

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention has a prayer gathering slated there and Immanuel has moved its City Center Conversations, formerly held at the Robinson Center Performance Hall downtown, to its own venue. Former pro basketball player Sidney Moncrief and his Game Changers organization have met there, as have several private companies.

“There are not a lot of event venues with … top-end technology that have banquet and conference space of this size out in west Little Rock, so that’s kind of why we started,” he says of the building, which is near the Big Rock interchange. The space accommodates 850 lecture-style seats, or 500 at round tables.

“We can do multiple configurations of the large room with all 850 [seats] or just the center room for about 500, lecture-style, and a couple of breakout rooms,” he says.

The venue management offers vendor recommendations for catering. Alcohol isn’t allowed.

CLUB 27

Jorge Gutierrez is a mechanical engineer who in 2016 founded Club 27 primarily as a venue for tango and salsa dancing.

“Then people started asking about renting it, and we kind of stumbled into that side of the business,” he says.

The club is above Buenos Aires restaurant at 614 President Clinton Ave. Twice a week, it is open to the public for dancing. The space is rented several times a month for a variety of private events including weddings and wedding receptions, corporate gatherings, holiday parties, birthday parties, graduation parties and a few fundraising events for nonprofit organizations.

Club 27 is a family affair — Jorge is the DJ and he also cleans the bathrooms. His wife, Sarah Catherine Gutierrez, is the mastermind behind the decor. Sarah Catherine is founder and chief executive officer of Aptus Financial and a paid monthly columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Clients are allowed to use their own caterers, but with its proximity to Buenos Aires, many opt to have food served by the restaurant. Club 27 provides bar services based on the customer’s request for either a cash bar or open bar.

CYPRESS SOCIAL

Cypress Social, another partnership between JTJ Restaurants and Louis Petit, the other half of Petit & Keet, opened at 7103 Cock of the Walk Lane in August 2020 following 16 months of renovation.

“It started out with the idea of it being sort of an event center,” says Jake Keet. “But we talked with people so much who were wanting a restaurant in Maumelle and we eventually listened.” So it’s both.

Cypress Social — so named because of the reclaimed cypress used throughout — has a room across from the bar that can be closed off with frosted sliding doors to create a secluded space for a bridal party to prepare for a wedding.

That room, dubbed “The Parlor,” has a modern chandelier and low-intensity lighting, and also works as a meeting space for groups of 20 to 30. A larger space, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a deck view of the scenic pond and Cypress fountain behind the venue, has room for 40 to 60 people.

“We’ve done some weddings out there; we’ve done some rehearsal dinners,” Keet says. “We always execute those events with excellence, with chef-driven food made from scratch.”

Weddings are typically scheduled for Sundays, Keet says. The restaurant’s hours are 4-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

“It’s easier to rent the space on a day when the restaurant is going to be closed that evening,” Keet says. “But we’ve also done several sort of brunch-style events for folks, with early weddings on Saturdays and things like that.”

THE HALL

The Hall, 721 W. Ninth St., opened its doors in October as a music venue and special events space. Josh Billue of Memphis is the owner.

“He loves Little Rock and saw a need for the size of The Hall,” says Jeremy Hicks, communication director. Hicks explains that in the music touring industry, bands may start playing in venues with 500 people maximum capacity and work their way up to spaces that accommodate up to 1,500 people. The Hall has standing room for 1,300 people.

But The Hall is not just home to concerts.

“Our business is pretty much split in half between concerts and events,” Hicks says. “Events can range from anything from weddings and receptions to gala fundraisers or corporate functions, holiday parties — really anything you could need that size space for.”

The building was constructed in the 1990s and was most recently used as a copier warehouse before it became The Hall. It has “kind of an industrial chic look” but can be dressed up easily for more glamorous events, he says. “What makes it unique is essentially you can have a high-energy live concert one night and the very next night you could have vendors come in and completely deck the place out for an elegant wedding. It’s just super versatile. It’s really wide open and that makes it a unique experience.”

Clients use their own caterers and The Hall provides beverage services, Hicks says.

RED & BLUE

  photo  Red & Blue, a venue at 1415 W. Seventh St. in Little Rock (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)
 Cary Jenkins 
 
 
In 2018, Roby Brock and his wife, Stephanie, were looking for a wedding reception site for their oldest child but couldn’t find one that fit their needs. He says the spaces they saw were either “too big or too cookie-cutter.”

So the Brocks decided to create their own venue and found just the right spot at 1415 W. Seventh St. near the state Capitol. It was the right size and the rent was affordable, he says. They named it Red & Blue.

Stephanie created the interior, which Roby describes as “Arkansas style while a little bit contemporary.” Instead of traditional round tables, Red & Blue has 10-foot farm tables. Barn doors hide the large-screen TV.

Since the Little Rock Club on the 30th floor of the Regions Bank building closed, Roby says they have seen an increase in corporate luncheons. With close proximity to the Capitol, the site has been the host of legislative-related events. Other events have included birthday parties, rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions and more.

Clients have the option of hiring their own caterer or doing the cooking themselves in the building’s kitchen. The Brocks also will recommend caterers when asked.

RUSTY TRACTOR VINEYARD

  photo  Sunset Lodge at Rusty Tractor Vineyards, 10 Rusty Tractor Lane in Little Rock (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)
 Cary Jenkins 
 
 
Rusty Tractor Vineyard, 10 Rusty Tractor Lane, off David O. Dodd Road, opened in 2019.

“We focus a lot on weddings, corporate events, private parties, that kind of thing,” says Lexi Meyer, event manager. “We do open to the public twice a month on Sundays, typically, depending on our event schedule. We post those on our Facebook and Instagram when we’re open.”

On those Sundays, the vineyard does wine tastings and there are food trucks on site.

“We partner with Fassler Hall [a downtown Little Rock German-inspired beer hall and restaurant] and do a big Oktoberfest every year. Mother’s and Father’s Day, we do kind of a big blowout. We’ve had a lot of introductions of new food trucks out here. We do live music,” she says.

There is a bloody Mary and mimosa bar every Sunday, and frozen wine cocktails are also popular.

“All of our wines are Arkansas-made and Arkansas-grown. We grow them right on site, bottle on site and we sell wines on site,” Meyer says. “We didn’t want to go into the food-service side of things, so we work with a lot of food trucks.”

Meyer says the venue has had at least 200 events since opening three years ago. During covid surges, the covered patio at the vineyard and open outdoor space made it possible for groups to meet safely.

“Something that’s unique about us is that we have a completely air-conditioned indoor space as well as a huge covered patio, so we have the opportunity to do events year-round,” she says. “We’re kind of like bringing Napa to Little Rock. It’s just absolutely beautiful here. The scenery really sells our venue, and Sheree Meyer did a fantastic job bringing the outside [into] our indoor space.”

THE VENUE AT OAKDALE

  photo  The Venue at Oakdale, 901 Kellogg Acres Road in Sherwood (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
 
 
The Venue at Oakdale opened in April 2021, with 15,000 square feet of indoor space and a capacity of 600 on the border of North Little Rock and Sherwood — 901 Kellogg Acres Road. “There was nothing in the area with kind of a more modern, clean-line design,” says manager Carol DePriest.

The Venue — owned by builder Brad Medlock, Annie and Todd Adams and Brian and Sonja Glaze — provides patrons with tables, chairs and linens and has a patio and courtyard area. Though they do not offer catering and bar services, they will provide a list of suggested vendors upon rental.

“We have plans to have an outdoor ceremony space as well,” DePriest says.

During covid surges, the venue’s many doors were flung open for ventilation and there was room for guests to space out, DePriest explains.

“Now, we’re just busy,” she says. “Everybody has just rescheduled and replanned and we are just booked. I would say that we have had at least 150 events since we opened and we are booking into 2024.”

The facility’s big windows let in plenty of natural light and show off the green space around the building, secluded but still within 10 minutes of commercial areas.

“We have golf carts that go down and pick up our guests from our parking lot; our bridal suite and groom’s quarters have mini-fridges and lots of outlets and steamers and they are large, so they can accommodate a nice size wedding party,” she says.

THE VILLA MARRE

Steve Harrelson, a lawyer and former state legislator, bought the Villa Marre in 2019 and has been renting it for some events since then. It is his primary residence but he says he spends only a couple of nights a week there and travels the rest of the time.

Best known as the “Designing Women” house, the site is frequently on tour bus routes. The exterior of the house was shown weekly in the opening of the TV sitcom that ran from 1986 to 1993.

“I think ‘Designing Women’ has some appeal to it,” Harrelson says of why the house is unique. “But I think just being this peculiar type of architecture that’s not really found in Arkansas besides the 1836 Club and the administrative building at Arkansas Baptist College, [which] are really the Second Empire architectural cases in Arkansas.”

Now that the country has sort of opened back up during the pandemic, the house is the site for one or two events — mostly weddings and receptions — a month. Recently, the house has been the site for several political events. It is located at 1321 Scott St.

Back in the day, the Villa Marre was a bustling venue. It sat vacant for a couple of years and vagrants squatted in it, stealing copper pipes and doing other damage. When Harrelson bought it, he did extensive renovation work, including painting and repairing water damage. He is in the process of renovating the kitchen so it will be more user friendly for caterers.

The Villa Marre is allegedly haunted by the ghost of Jennie Marre, the wife of Angelo Marre, who built the house in 1881-82. He died in 1889. She died in the house in 1904.

“I don’t know if it is Marre, but there are definitely some questionable sounds from time to time,” Harrelson says with a chuckle.

Print Headline: Venue variations

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