Article by Julia M. Johnson
Downtown St. Louis is a prime spot for exciting meetings and events, and there’s a delicious pair of new venues to add to that scene – Lumen Private Event Space, and The Caramel Room. Both facilities are so enticing, meeting planners may have trouble deciding which one to choose. Rest assured, though, it will be an enjoyable problem to have.
The Caramel Room is located at Bissinger’s iconic St. Louis chocolate factory on North Broadway, and its St. Louis skyline views are definitely the order of the day. Lumen is located on Locust Street, just 23 blocks from The Caramel Room – hence the name of the venues’ shared ownership group, 23 City Blocks Catering.
The facilities also have in common an executive chef, Nicholas Miller, who works with groups to create memorable custom menus. The venues’ staff members are uniquely poised to “sweet” you off your feet with exquisite meals and desserts, event-themed beverages, even candy-making experiences at Bissinger’s.
Lumen Private Event Space
Lumen is aptly named for its abundant natural light, which creates a welcoming atmosphere for guests and planners alike. Lending itself especially to social gatherings, the facility can accommodate seated dinners of up to 200 guests, or 350 for cocktail receptions with hors d’oeuvres.
Located in a high-ceilinged treasure of a vintage building that used to be an auto showroom, the venue has welcomed event clients such as the St. Louis-based Mercy Health System’s young friends organization. The group hosts its annual fund-raising masque gala there.
“The Mercy event was just gorgeous this year,” says Amanda Bradham-Little, director of marketing and events for both Lu-men and The Caramel Room. “Everyone dressed in masque, including our staff. There were champagne towers, ‘living food sculptures,’ and face painting. Food was passed during the event; there was something different to see every way you turned.”
The building’s many historically appealing features include high ceilings, with nearly full-length windows graced by color LED lighting systems. “The lighting makes the whole building glow,” Bradham-Little says. “It helps set the tone for every event. You can pick the color scheme of your dreams, and we can make the colors change or chase. One example is a ‘winter wonderland’ event we had where everything was blue and white.”
Timely renovations have resulted in brand new paint and decor, a recently reimagined bar, refinished hardwood floors, and other tasteful touches. There is ample parking with valet service, and Lumen has a full inventory of tables, chairs, china and glassware for clients to use. “If we have it on-site, there’s no additional charge to use it,” Bradham-Little says. The facility also can accommodate any technology and audio-visual needs a group may have.
The St. Louis Business Journal held its second annual Innovation Awards event at Lumen in April 2015. Guests enjoyed a stand-up reception, passed hors d’oeuvres, and the presentation of awards in several business categories.
Lumen also plays host to St. Louis Magazine’s annual, five-night Food Wine Design Culinary Week celebration, where 10 chefs gather to create dining experiences for attendees. The venue also was the site for the 2014 Perfect Wedding Guide Vendy Awards.
“The building is historic, but it’s modern, and it’s a blank slate as far as your event and décor are concerned,” Brad-ham-Little says. “Our interior style never interferes with your event design.” Special linens and equipment of any kind can be rented, and music and entertainment can be brought in as well. “We had a 24-piece band here recently, and there’s room for dancing,” Bradham-Little says. “The fabric draping that we have over the windows helps with the sound, so music is not overpowering in the space.”
She calls Lumen “a great choice for medium-sized groups that don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. It’s also a great getaway for attendees at a convention downtown, who want something to do off-property as an escape from their meeting rooms.”
A number of event planners have raved about the food, space and service they enjoyed while holding events at Lumen. Erin Schulte, owner of Exclusive Events Inc., says, “The team at Lumen Private Event Space has passion that should set the standard.” And Katie Saeger, owner of Katie Saeger Events, says, “They have such love for every detail.”
The Caramel Room
If your group has a keen taste for participatory activities, The Caramel Room is a natural choice. “The cool thing about this space is that it’s at the chocolate factory, so we encourage groups to have ‘chocolate experiences,’” Bradham-Little says. “Some are as simple as wine or beer pairings with chocolates; others are more hands-on. You can make your own chocolate bar or two- piece tray; learn how to ‘pan’ and work with melted chocolate; pick your own toppings; and take your creations home with you.”
The factory takes up the second floor of the building, and The Caramel Room is on the fourth. Three event spaces are available – a stunningly appointed bar area; 4,500-square-foot outdoor terrace with fire pits; and main ballroom. The bar space can serve as a prefunction area, accommodating cocktail parties for up to 300. And the outdoor terrace overlooks the new Stan Musial Bridge across the Mississippi River. The ballroom can hold up to 400 for a seated dinner, or 350 with a dance floor or theater seating.
The overall décor is modern but classic, Bradham-Little says: “I consider The Caramel Room to be ‘warm, chic and whiskey.’ It’s modern and bright, but there are also amazing chandeliers. It can be seen as masculine but feminine at the same time, so it appeals to everyone. You can have a meeting inside during the day, then enjoy lunch on the terrace. We have it all in one beautiful spot.”
There’s secure parking, nearly 200 spaces; and electrical capacity and bandwidth to host large bands and groups with significant audio-visual, sound and high-speed Internet needs. “Our Wi-Fi can accommodate up to 400 people online at the same time, and we have speakers inside and out,” Bradham-Little says.
Chocolate, not surprisingly, finds its way onto the venue’s menu. “Chef Nick can do some very different things for groups,” Bradham-Little says. “For example, he has done a gourmet corn dog with white chocolate raspberry mustard. It sounds unusual, but it’s great. He also does cocoa-rubbed filets, and even less obvious things like putting chocolate with scallops. The flavor is subtle, with a hint of sweetness.”
Bradham-Little calls the facility’s desserts and caramel creations “amazing,” and a staff mixologist is available to concoct signature martinis and other drinks for your event as well. “We love customizing at both our properties,” she says. “We have sample menus on our websites, and we use them as guides, but you’re never restricted to that. We want everything to be tailored to your taste and your event.”
Angela Bingaman, finance director for the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, planned his 60th birthday party for 350 guests at The Caramel Room. The choice of venue was the mayor’s particular request, according to Bingaman. “I loved the space,” she says. “It was absolutely beautiful. The food, beverage and cake service were fantastic, and staff members were incredibly responsive and helpful with all our needs. Everything was top notch. I would definitely book with The Caramel Room and Amanda again.” Other Caramel Room meeting clients have included the St. Louis Rams, BJC HealthCare, Wells Far-go, Deloitte, and KPMG.
Combined staff for both properties is about a dozen, including sales personnel and event managers, all of whom offer undivided attention to each event group. And there’s more – the third “leg” of the 23 City Blocks company is its catering arm, which can handle anything from boxed lunches to dinners on-site or off-site, Bradham-Little says.
Lumen Private Event Space and The Caramel Room are a pair of stunning new confections for the meeting planner and guest to savor, but they also offer plenty of substance. If past clients’ testimonials are any indication, planners in search of memorable St. Louis meeting venues will find themselves highly valued – and sweetly surprised – at both properties.
Lumen Private Event Space
2201 Locust Street
St. Louis MO 63103
The Caramel Room at Bissinger’s
1600 North Broadway
St. Louis MO 63102
Julia M. Johnson is a contributing editor and writer from St. Louis.