Hager Hall is changing how area businesses can celebrate the holidays by allowing companies to throw a party at their conference and event center without paying the high cost of renting an entire venue.
Known as a Holiday Bash for Businesses, for $40 a person, companies or groups can reserve space in a shared room at Hager Hall Conference and Event Center in Hagerstown and enjoy a buffet meal, an open bar and access to both Barefoot Bernies and Cancun Cantina.
Reserving a full venue can run into the thousands of dollars, said Jennifer Miller, managing partner of Hager Hall.
"With the economic times, it just seemed like, in the last couple of years, we lost a number of (Christmas) parties," she said.
Even though employees were setting up for a 300-person party in the grand ballroom Friday night, Miller said that the economy has forced some businesses to either not throw a holiday party or throw less of a one.
The Holiday Bash was not intended to accommodate larger businesses, she said.
Instead, it was for companies like The Whittington Construction Group LLC of Williamsport that don't employ a lot of people but have owners who want to treat their employees to a nice party.
Bill Whittington, owner of The Whittington Construction Group, said about 13 people — a mix of employees, family and guests — came to the Holiday Bash Friday. That's about 90 percent of his company, he said.
Even for a company his size to go out for a holiday dinner can be tough on a tight budget, he said.
Being able to share a room with the Fort Detrick Commissary from Frederick, Md., Friday was a great way to celebrate the holiday and have a good time at an affordable price, Whittington said.
Sharing a room with other businesses might require some owners to change the way they view the traditional company party, Miller said.
"It's a trade-off," Miller said.
A shared venue will save a company the cost of renting the room and paying setup and staffing costs, but it also is not a private party.
However, with the shared venue comes networking opportunities, as employees are able to mingle with those from other businesses, she said.
Rob Cauffman, store director of the Fort Detrick Commissary, said this was the second year they have held their holiday party at Hager Hall.
"Everything was so well put together last year we were looking forward to coming again," Cauffman said.
Crediting secretary Donna Pryor who learned of the offer, he said that rather than trying to rent a venue, the Holiday Bash allows his employees to celebrate Christmas together for "not a huge price."
Only the two companies booked space for the bash Friday, but Miller said she is optimistic the idea will grow in time.