By Astrid Zeppenfeld
“The facility added a few enhancements in the past year.” Ever-so-nonchalantly and humbly, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis describes its recent major improvements and additions. As if adding the very first U.S. venture by famed restaurateur Mario Iaccarino – inspired by his family’s famous Mediterranean restaurant in Southern Italy, Don Alfonso 1890, which before only existed in two other international locations (Toronto and Shanghai) – wasn’t a big deal. As if building The Solarium – an indoor/outdoor meeting space full of green vines and beautiful, REAL flowers – and thereby adding more than 3,000 square foot of unique meeting space wasn’t anything extravagant. Additionally, The Cigar Club not only moved, but was completely rebuilt and now exhibits a distinct air of a speakeasy, where members have access to a beautifully – and distinctly masculine – decorated private cigar club.
The plans for the enhancements were originally unveiled by Amanda Joiner, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, in November of 2019, and the majority of construction was completed behind the coincidental veil of the 2020 global pandemic. Christie Pink, Director of Sales & Marketing, admits, “I have to say, one of the upsides of Covid was our occupancy was lower; we didn’t have as many events, so that, while we were doing all this construction, it wasn’t as disruptive as it would have been if we had been fully occupied.”
As life after a pandemic is slowly returning to (albeit a slightly-altered new) normal, I’d be willing to bet The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis will never see anything but full occupancy again. Especially with all the added meeting space, I imagine business functions and events will easily fill out the facility – and particularly all of the 34,000 square foot total meeting space on 18 floors – at any given time.
Casa Don Alfonso
What former guests might remember as The Restaurant and The Grill has been transformed into a splendid area of entertainment, offering a cultural dining experience with the taste of Mediterranean cuisine. The copper accents – from the ceiling to the cookware – throughout the open kitchen in the light and airy atmosphere of Casa Don Alfonso… all of it is reminiscent of a beautiful fairy tale from One Thousand and One Nights. For a small, private gathering, the 2,795 square-foot Casa Don Alfonso offers a sunny dining room for up to 16 attendees.
Its elegant, all matching table linens and upgraded glassware are unique to The Bijou and never used in any other room. It would not be The Ritz-Carlton if the table setting did not provide the perfect, elegant accent to your high-class meeting, while subtly suggesting that your business doesn’t lack savoir-faire. Which is why it’s all the more fitting to name this meeting room “The Jewel” in French, which can sit up to 80 guests in rounds.
The Cigar Club
For the after-dinner cigar or to seal a deal discussed over lunch, The Cigar Club will ensure a speakeasy degree of privacy. Membership, which includes a private humidor, is required to be invited into this exclusive section of the new enhancements. To keep in line with the speakeasy ambience, the distinct TCC logo is often jokingly referred to as “the secret password”. (Shh, don’t tell anyone you read it here!)
A little more than 3,000 square foot of brand-new, luxurious event space is ready for any kind of elegant gathering. Even if your meeting has to take place in snowy weather or St. Louis’ scorching August heat, you can still enjoy the outdoors on the mezzanine level terrace, which features removable floor-to-ceiling windows. Just like The Bijou, The Solarium has its own set of table linens and decorations, uniquely designed for your sophisticated events. With the natural light cascading off its abundant greenery, this meeting space invokes an interesting combination of feeling soothed by being surrounded by nature and feeling the need to courtesy upon entering and being on your best behavior at the sight of the delicately-set tables.
Meet Me at The Ritz-Carlton
With all these additional meeting space options for your next business function at The Ritz-Carlton, it has just become even harder to not be completely in awe of the property’s inherent splendor. But, while the flowers in The Solarium now add a little bright color and the new copper accents in Casa Don Alfonso add a little extra shine, the venue’s true brilliancy is, and will forever be, mirrored in the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton.
Walking into the property is always a pleasure. Every one of the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz welcomes the guest with a warm, genuine smile and greeting – as set forth by the credo of the company, which every employee learns by heart. Main tenets include: “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen […] and the genuine comfort and care of our guests is our highest mission. We pledge to provide the finest personal service […] for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed yet refined, ambience.”
As Kris Marino, Managing Partner at Big Blue Spark, describes it: “The Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton make you feel like you’re coming in and being accepted as part of their family.” Marino has held many business events, in various meeting spaces, at the Clayton hotel. She says, “We typically have held non-profit galas there, with anywhere from 250 to 600 guests. We also have one annual meeting that is quite large, with up to 700 attendees.” Marino chooses The Ritz-Carlton for her events because, in her opinion, “it’s the most comfortable and genuine venue in St. Louis.” She elaborates further, “You know that when you walk in those doors, they’re going to know who you are, they’re going to take just exceptional care of you and your clients, and they’re ready to handle pretty much everything that pops up. I think that people sometimes are intimidated by the name Ritz-Carlton, but when you set foot on that property, you just feel at ease.” Her company is currently planning a 200-person gathering with a presentation in The Solarium for October – and Marino, a bit sheepishly, admits, “I am giddy about The Solarium. I am in love with that place – it is absolutely stunning and just adds a level of exquisite detail that’s lush and comfortable, and truly opulent. And with the indoor/outdoor aspect, it’s going to be a phenomenal event! But, then again, nothing is ever just a meeting room at The Ritz.”
Tina Hennessy, Executive Assistant to the President & CEO at Belden, echoes Marino’s feelings about the superior treatment of guests at The Ritz-Carlton: “The Ritz-Carlton always works with me to ensure my Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Team staying on property to attend our meetings are well taken care of in every way possible. The rooms are extremely comfortable and updated to include everything one would need to feel at home. The meeting space is perfect for our meetings, and the new event space adds such an amazing atmosphere not found anywhere else in St. Louis! Jennifer Ryan, Senior Sales Manager, brings her qualities of attention to detail and extreme professionalism. The banquet staff always goes the extra mile to ensure my setup meets my expectations. Front desk associates and bellmen are greatly appreciated for all the help they give to ensure a pleasant arrival and departure for my group.”
Astrid Zeppenfeld is a writer and MEET Missouri’s editor/business development manager from St. Louis.