Superstorm Sandy has reshaped the corporate holiday party landscape on Long Island this year.
Some companies, in no mood to celebrate in the wake of devastation that affected them or their employees, have canceled parties. And catering halls have to think creatively to make up the difference.
Globecomm Systems Inc., a Hauppauge-based satellite-communications manufacturer, is scrapping its annual holiday party and instead will donate money to seven employees on Long Island affected by the storm, said CEO Dave Hershberg. He declined to say how much that would be, but the company usually hosted a dinner party at a "major restaurant" with open bar and music, he said. Instead, the company will hold a luncheon for its 240 employees on Long Island.
"It's tough to have a big party when some people are hurting," Hershberg said.
As larger companies have canceled their parties or scaled back, caterers are turning to small businesses and offering "joiner" parties, an option that allows a group of companies to party together like their larger counterparts at a dramatically reduced rate.
Butch Yamali, owner of the Coral House catering hall in Baldwin and The Sands and the seasonal MaliBlue Oyster Bar in Lido Beach, is offering the option for the first time this year, to help make up for a 30 percent drop in holiday bookings.
"Once the storm occurred, a lot of people postponed, because they lost their business or didn't feel right about having a party," Yamali said.
The Sands remains closed because of storm damage.
So far, Yamali has booked about 50 small businesses for parties. Fifteen to 20 at a time will party together, sharing the room, a DJ, a buffet and a bar, for about $55 a head. The small businesses range from as few as two employees up to as many as 30.
Bill Smith, vice president of Sarnow Food Group, a Bethpage company that distributes candy and other products to movie theaters and other vendors, has booked a joiner party at the Coral House. The company has 30 employees.
"If you had to pay for something like that on your own, you are probably looking at something well over $100 a head," he said.
Steve Kirschbaum, general manager of Carlyle Catering in Plainview, said joiner parties have helped to take some of the slack out of the post-Sandy holiday season. He said bookings overall are up 14 percent so far this year, compared with last year, even though some customers have canceled their regular holiday parties.
The joiners are nothing new, he said. But after slowing down in the last several years, "this year they are almost back." He is hosting one joiner party this season; he expects 200 people, up from 150 last year.
Victor Scotto, general manager of Chateau Briand in Carle Place, said the catering hall began offering the joiner option about 12 to 14 years ago, offering one night. Its three nights this year are sold out.
"I see a little bit more demand," he said.
Whether an office party is simple or elaborate, companies should be on their guard to prevent lawsuits that such revelry could spark. Here are some suggestions from employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, author of "The Employee Rights Handbook." He has offices in East Meadow and Manhattan.
1 Prepare and distribute a zero-tolerance memo for sexual harassment. The document should define what constitutes inappropriate behavior and what the penalties for it are.
2 Consider not serving alcohol, or if you do, hire experienced bartenders.
3 Schedule the party after work to avoid claims of failing to pay wages and overtime to hourly workers.
4 Remind employees to be discreet about taking photos and publishing them on social media websites such as Facebook, especially provocative or embarrassing pictures that convey a detrimental image of the company.