In the past four years, two private event spaces have popped up in downtown Charlottesville. Executive chef Alex George anticipates opening the third next month.
The Commonwealth Reserve is slated to join George’s other Downtown Mall endeavors Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar and Just Curry.
“When this opportunity came up, it was just perfect for us. It is right across the street [from the Commonwealth Restaurant],” he said.
The space in the 400 block of East Main Street became available after paper and crafts store Paper, Ink closed in March.
“The capacity is up to 80 seated, and I’m hoping to get 100 or 125 standing,” George said. “There is a huge catering kitchen attached, and we will also have outdoor patio space.”
The additional space gives George’s restaurant the opportunity to host larger and private parties.
“People usually like to have a cocktail event up here [at Skybar] and then they want to head downstairs and have dinner,” he said. “The issue is, it is not private. [The Commonwealth Reserve] will allow us to have the cocktail event up here and then you head over the Commonwealth Reserve to have your private dinner party.”
Although the Commonwealth Reserve will reflect the design style of the Commonwealth Restaurant, George plans to open the space to anyone who needs a private space.
“It is not just for us,” George said. “Anyone can use it. Any event planner can use it. You can bring your own caterer.”
In addition to the Commonwealth Reserve, the Old Metropolitan Hall and The Space are two other private event spaces downtown.
“There is really a shortage of event spaces on the Downtown Mall, which is quite frankly where everyone wants to be,” George said.
The wedding industry surrounding Charlottesville is one major factor driving the market for private event space downtown.
“There is definitely a need [for space],” said Mallory Joyce, a wedding planner at Old Metropolitan.
Joyce said several destination wedding groups had told her that they were looking for in-town spaces for rehearsal dinners to showcase the city. Because of that, Old Metropolitan hasn’t had trouble booking events, she said.
“We booked our first wedding that first month [we opened in February 2013],” she said. “I’m already booking May 2015, and have been since January.”
The wedding industry has been “growing exponentially [in Charlottesville],” said Bri Warner, director of sales and marketing at the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It is probably a number of factors, but I’ve seen an increase in the number of inquiries [to the CACVB for event space],” Warner said.
One perk of being downtown is proximity and access to other restaurants and businesses.
“Once [the event] is over, people can meander the mall,” Joyce said. “The party can continue because everything is walkable here.”
“You can go to wineries and things like that, but for rehearsal dinners and just having a good time out, you want to be on the Downtown Mall,” he said.