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The Main Event

Cathy Christensen January 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
Living Eleven Las Vegas

The Eleven Spa Las Vegas location evokes Old-Hollywood glamour in a state-of-the-art event space.

Whether you host parties or simply attend them, you know that there are key elements that can make or break the experience, including the music, food and guests. One of the most essential components to a great party, however, is the vibe—the feel of the party, the atmosphere. Without the right space, a party can fall flat and become downright uncomfortable.

Spas by nature are comfortable, nurturing spaces that are welcoming to their specific clientele, and often provide the perfect atmosphere for events ranging from bridal showers and birthday parties to corporate meetings and fundraisers. In order to open the doors to these types of events, however, a spa needs to have a space that can accommodate groups of people in a comfortable and harmonious way. But this doesn’t mean that only resort spas can cash in on this additional revenue stream—both small and large day spas can find ways to multitask their existing space or build on specifically to host events within the spa itself.

Don’t forget to check with your city’s building and fire codes and ensure that you learn about what is legally required of you before beginning the project. However, with planning and forethought, your building may be able to provide some relief for your stretched spa services revenue in the form of events.

Small to mid-sized spa spaces

Smaller spas can often capitalize on their size by providing cozy areas for smaller events that benefit from intimate spaces and familiar environs.

Flic Spa, Bloomfield, New Jersey. At Flic Spa, a boutique spa with an Asian-inspired ambiance in Bloomfield, New Jersey, the decision to save space for an event area during the building process wasn’t an easy one to make. “It was a terrible fight between us and the architect when we built the spa in 2007,” explains Lerrick Santos, Flic’s co-owner. “If you go into a spa in our area, space is at a premium, and for us to take 25% of the spa’s 1,500 square feet, it was a big gamble.” But both Santos and co-owner Oliver Dimaya entered the spa industry with event planning backgrounds, giving credence to the idea of adding a gathering area. “Rather than doing a treatment room, we opted to keep it as a flexible area for spa parties and receptions. Most of the time, it’s a birthday or a bridal party,” explains Santos.

Because it is a small spa and events aren’t part of its core business, the staff at Flic takes care of the details, keeping all the event planning, catering and decorating in-house. “We serve good, hearty, healthy meals here, and we like to support local businesses, so we order fresh from neighborhood restaurants, and they deliver it. The food is terrific, and the decorations come from my home. We bring in fresh flowers, and we really put a great deal of attention into it,” explains Santos.

And although events don’t bring a considerable amount of direct profit into the spa, Santos believes what the spa has earned from word-of-mouth is significant. “When the bride comes in, she brings in people who may not know about the spa and hopefully will become future clients,” says Santos, who credits personal gratification as the biggest reward of the event room. “We experience such joy with it and the clients are so relaxed. They are already in a good mood and it only adds to their experience.”

LaCole Salon & Spa, Seaford, New York. Another spa that offers an event space is the 4,000 square-foot LaCole Salon & Spa in Seaford, New York, which opened in February 2008. A perfect example of working with a space that wasn’t built to specification, the event room was a storage area for the previous business in the building—a 99 cent store. “We weren’t sure what to do with the space, and we thought about maybe making it a yoga studio. We got the idea for an event area from our massage therapist who said that some spas host parties and decided to design it like a living room,” explains Nicole Consi, who co-owns the spa with her sister Laura Giacalone.

The space doubles as a relaxation room available to spa clients before or after treatments, and the 400-square-foot area features hardwood floors and walls painted in a dark chocolate brown, with three couches, four swivel chairs and a buffet table. The majority of the events held at the spa are sweet 16 parties, as well as children’s parties, bachelorette parties and general get-togethers. “Normally, we do three services during the parties: manis, pedis and express facials. We find out how many women are coming and have the clients choose their services, and we give our staff a list of what each client is getting done and they cycle through,” explains Giacalone.

The spa doesn’t hire additional staff to bear the burden of the events, instead relying on its current team to pitch in. It also offers the option of renting the room and allowing clients to bring in their own food at $250 for an average of four hours. With food, such as homemade wraps or specialties from a local deli or bagel store, the fee is $375.

“We make sure everyone who comes into the spa is aware of the party room. We have a sign in front, it is also on our Web site, menu and fliers, and we advertise in the paper. The word is getting out there. This month, we’ve booked three parties,” explains Consi. “The investment is minimal to redo a room; it’s walls and furniture and making it comfortable. If the spa is slow, you’re getting a group of 10–20 people in during a 24-hour period. You can’t beat that.”

Mid-to-large-sized spa spaces

Larger spas often have the ability to accommodate more elaborate events, such as corporate meetings and motivational speaking engagements, resulting in satisfied clients who have the option of enhancing their gatherings with spa services.

Urbàna Cityspa & Teabar, Charlotte and Huntersville, North Carolina. At North Carolina’s Urbàna Cityspa & Teabar, a facility with the main focus of fusing spa with tea in an aesthetically pleasing environment, a variety of events are hosted at both of the spa’s locations—a 3,500-square-foot room at the Charlotte spa and a 4,250-square-foot space at the Huntersville location.

“When looking at the social aspect of spa and tea, it seemed to be something that would work, but it wasn’t a sure thing. It seemed important to do something different, and it came together beautifully,” explains owner Nancy Goodwin. “One of the things I had heard when building my spa was that a multipurpose space was good to have and in terms of something in the back of the spa, it can be used in a variety of modalities.” Corporate events, birthday parties, baby showers, trunk shows and fundraisers have all been hosted in the spa’s lounge area.

Because noise control does tend to be a problem with some events, the staff sometimes has to run interference by informing clients before their appointments in case the noise is a problem. If the client keeps her appointment and the event is something that allows for a variety of people, the spa also invites the client to join in the event after her treatment concludes.

Urbàna also doesn’t hire additional staff during events, but does bring in team members from its other location to help shoulder the workload. “I don’t think we would ever want to do any event without bringing in at least one person,” says Goodwin, who often works events alongside her team. “If I can be at an event, I can answer phones, or be a backup, or give tours. We find when we do have groups in, there’s a lot of curiosity about the remainder of the space, and those tours often result in new clients.”

Word-of-mouth advertising, along with the spa’s Web site, serves as the event room’s primary marketing tool. “There is a pretty big demand for event spaces. We get referrals and might have someone who works in the events industry refer people to us,” explains Goodwin. In regard to food, because the spa has a tea bar already operating on the premises, food service is available in-house.

“We do a lot of events during our regular hours, which run weekdays until 10 pm. If you want to have an event outside of regular business hours, it is $1,000 for a three-hour event with a required 20% gratuity,” says Goodwin, who confirms that event business is important to Urbàna’s bottom line. “We saw a drop in the events with the economic woes, and I would say within the past two or three months, we’ve seen a turnaround with those who want events again.”

The Lamar Everyday Spa, Scottsdale, Arizona. At The Lamar Everyday Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, there are two rooms available for events: The 800-square-foot Palm Room features banquet rounds and can have stadium-style seating, allowing for the ability to host functions, and the spa also has the 750-square-foot Bamboo Room.

“We’re a unique crossbreed between a day spa and a resort spa, so we have all the resort facilities, and when the resorts around us aren’t able to host an event, they refer that business to us,” explains owner Heidi Lamar. The rooms are a muted golden yellow, welcoming to both women and men and not too overpowering for a corporate group, and the space is handled by the guest services manager who oversees the front desk staff, the use of the room and the spa services that may be part of the event. Currently, catering is done with a partner, although the property is in the process of building a 700-square-foot café that will allow for the food service to be done in-house.

As for marketing, the spa reaches out to meeting and event planners, as well as wedding and event networks, hotel concierges and group coordinators. “We’ve hosted a number of receptions for them at the spa to get them inside the building so they can understand what we offer. Whenever I give a spa tour to groups or individuals, I make sure they see the event space. Often, their eyes light up, and they say they have been trying to find a place for a bridal shower or a meeting,” says Lamar, on whom the benefit of word-of-mouth advertising is not lost. “Events bring large groups of people through the spa, and everyone has the potential of coming back.”

Eleven Spa, Delray Beach, Florida, and Las Vegas. Leave it to Vegas to bring event spaces to an over-the-top glam that is as alluring as it is functional ... or perhaps leave it to Nikki Oden, owner of both Eleven Spa locations in Las Vegas and Delray Beach, Florida.

“It’s a great way to add to profit margins, and if you build the back of the house correctly, you can have some serious events,” Oden explains. The mastermind behind the expansive 8,500-square-foot indoor and outdoor event space at the Delray Beach location and the opulent 13,000-square-foot indoor space in Vegas, Oden oversaw the entire building process, and working with architect George Brewer, helped her Old Hollywood-vision come to life. “The Vegas spa converts easily to a beautiful venue for an event, and you can still have a treatment behind closed doors,” she says.

One of the most innovative and useful features at Eleven Spa in Vegas is the converting bar. “We have a makeup bar with mirrors that pop up out of the counter top using the same motor as that of a flat-screen TV. When you press that button, they slip inside the bar itself, making it a solid surface bar for events,” explains Brewer, who also reveals that the makeup chairs become bar seats.

Additionally, Eleven Spa incorporated curved walls allowing spaces to feel big or small depending on the number of people in the space, and relies on flexible lighting to help enhance whatever mood is desired. (Editor’s note: For more advice from Nikki Oden about how to have the best spa building experience possible, log on to

A reason to come back

Whether you are just building your spa or are looking for a way to add revenue and interest to your existing property, event spaces can add a new dimension, not only helping your spa stand out from the competition, but also adding to your profit margins, as well.

“In this economy, it’s nice to be flexible, and the more ways you can do that, the more likely you are to survive until things get really good again,” says Lamar. “Start thinking outside the box and thinking of your property as less of a spa space and more a meeting space—a place where people can gather together. Instead of focusing on how we can get people to come in for a massage, we focus on how we can get people in period. Once they are here, they can pick up a menu and try to find a reason to come back.”



Eleven Spa Makeup Bar

LaCole Salon and Spa


Urbana Cityspa & Teabar


More Advice for Handling Spa Parties

Once you have the room built, staffed and marketed, what are the nitty gritty details behind handling spa parties? A recent Vocal Point question on revealed helpful advice from your peers who are spa party veterans. For additional responses, log on to

“We do spa parties regularly at Skin Haven and have learned throughout the years how to handle all the details in a mutually pleasing manner. We always make a payment schedule, including a deposit when a date is secured, and balance due one week before the event. We put all the details in writing for approval in advance so we can put together the treatment schedule, catering and any other special requests. The main thing is to anticipate the customer’s needs and anticipate any potential issues and avoid problems on the day of the event. We also like to have an extra front-of-house staffer working any large party in order to ensure smooth sailing for both clients and therapists. Parties are fun, and planning ahead makes everything better.”

—Sharon Ronen, Founder/CEO, Skin Haven Spa Studio & Wellspa, Los Angeles

“Clients must choose their services when making an appointment and at that time, pay 50% of the cost of the total services. It is made clear to them the services cannot be changed on the day of the spa party and times of services must be adhered to. I found it very helpful for one member of the party to be the chairperson and because she knows everyone, she, along with a member of the staff, can keep things moving so everyone is where they are supposed to be at the time they are scheduled. At the end of the party, we present a gift to the chairperson and everyone goes home happy.”

—Bettye Odom, President, Bettye O Day Spa, Chicago

“To host parties at our spa, we have created a position—spa groups concierge/salesperson—whose job it is to facilitate and create events for social guests for birthday parties, bridal showers and corporate groups. This type of business makes up 15% of our total reservations, so it is critical that we oversee the event details closely. We have found it a challenge that group clients want to have a visiting or party-type of spa day, so we have created a special spa suite away from the main spa, on the fifth floor of the hotel overlooking the city of San Francisco, where members of the group can go to let their hair down.

“This spa suite is equipped to perform manicures and pedicures, massages, body treatments and facials. It has a living room, dining area, lockers, a couples treatment room, a manicure/pedicure set-up and a private bathroom with a shower. This gives the group members a private getaway to laugh and party, but they also can go to our main spa to swim, workout, steam and sauna.

“We also ask the groups to sign a contract we’ve created that reviews the spa policy, including that groups must pre-order food, that an automatic 20% gratuity is charged for the staff and that there is a more strict cancellation policy to adhere to. We’ve found creating these expectations ahead of time makes the day go smoother, not only for the spa, but also for the clients. It is our desire to create a magical day for them, free of any concerns, and we find that we usually do with this program.”

—Jenean LaRoche, Spa Director, Nob Hill Spa at the Huntington Hotel, San Francisco

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