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Rooftop Venues 101: 6 Tips to Keep in Mind

By Caroline Cox | 3 min read

With temperatures warming up, it’s the perfect time to host events on a scenic rooftop. From corporate team-building retreats to wedding receptions and everything in between, an expansive rooftop venue provides a built-in view, and a space you can make your own in a nontraditional setting. But with factors like unpredictable weather and potential access hurdles, it’s important to plan ahead to ensure each guest has a pleasurable experience. We talked to Amber Roberts of Black Sheep Restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, and Mandy Slater of Slater Hospitality (who manages Ponce City Market’s Skyline Park) in Atlanta, Georgia, about their top tips for a successful rooftop soiree.

Embrace the venue’s nontraditional aspects

“Having a rooftop space in Jacksonville is unique,” says Roberts, “so when we were given the opportunity to build ours, we couldn’t pass it up.” Don’t be afraid to play up your rooftop’s attributes rather than trying to imitate an indoor or more traditional space. Bring in lush plants to enhance the outdoor feel, put out a few couches or benches that feature water resistant cushions, hang up a screen to project old movies or sports games, or hang string lights by the skyline view to provide the perfect lighting for a sunset photo. Slater says Skyline Park stands out thanks to its putt-putt course, old-school games and three-story slide.

Keep your options open

Slater says they’ve gotten rooftop requests for everything from bar mitzvahs and birthday parties to charity events and international business conferences. “This is a unique way to show visitors Atlanta,” she says. “Our amusements space is 22,000 square feet, and the restaurant is 8,800,” which means the PCM rooftop can perfectly accommodate anywhere from 30 people for a semi-private event to a buyout with 500 guests. “We host a lot of company happy hours, promotion celebrations and networking events,” says Roberts, “but it’s also perfect for a casual birthday party or girls night out.” Be sure to project to your clientele that your rooftop is available to host a variety of events. Even better if you can showcase a photo gallery of different event types that customers can scroll through to get inspiration.

Be mindful of the weather

“Weather is definitely a factor,” Slater explains, “so great weather helps.” She suggests keeping things like unexpected wind in mind and planning accordingly, with things like elastic tablecloths, backup tent options, and furniture that’s weather resistant and easy to move. Roberts adds that, especially in the summer, starting events a bit later (after the sun is setting or has set) and letting guests know ahead of time that they’ll be outside will help keep things running smoothly—and keep you from hosting a slew of overheated attendees. Make sure you have a backup plan in mind in case of inclement weather, like where to move the event indoors or underneath a covering.

Have fun with the food and drinks

To play up the amusement park aesthetic, Skyline Park offers elevated Coney Island-style eats and drinks such as gourmet hot dogs, funnel cake, seasoned popcorn and more. Roberts also suggests keeping the season in mind when menu planning. Buying seasonal produce will also keep your costs down. For a summertime event, you can’t go wrong with a list of refreshing cocktails and a menu of light bites such as watermelon gazpacho, fresh veggies, mini tacos and even sweet treats like ice cream or popsicles for a fun twist.

Plan for the crowd

Skyline Park is situated on the 10th floor of Ponce City Market, with access via stairs, as well as an elevator that holds about 30 people at a time. Therefore, if you’ve got hundreds of guests arriving simultaneously, it may take a minute (or several) before everyone arrives at the top. Keep this in mind when scheduling, and consider including the myriad access points (and any entry fees the guests should be aware of) in the invite while also carving out a good hour at the beginning of your event to account for people en route.

Stay flexible

When it comes to rooftop soirees, Slater cautions against planning too rigid of a schedule. “People like rooftops because it gets you away from the hustle and bustle of the street level,” she says. “People go up there to escape and relax, so it’s best to leave time for guests to explore instead of rushing them.” Roberts agrees, explaining that though the Florida weather can be risky, “the views of downtown Jax and the St. John’s river were just too good to keep to ourselves.” Give guests time to soak it all up.

“We chose Gather to help us digitize and streamline our events process,” says Roberts. “We have a team of people involved in the process, so Gather really helps keep us all on the same page.” As for Slater, “I knew events were going to be intense in terms of requests, and we needed a system to manage it,” she adds. “It’s made managing the dozens of emails we’re getting before we’re even open much easier, and has given me peace of mind and a tool to start off on the right foot.

Now that you know how to help your rooftop events kick off without a hitch, see how Gather can help you streamline your private events process.

This is an updated post that originally appeared on the Gather blog in June 2016.

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Caroline Cox
Content Marketing Manager

Caroline Cox is Gather's Content Marketing Manager. She spends her time crafting blogs, thought leadership pieces, case studies, social media content and more, helping empower restaurants and other event venues to streamline their planning process and grow their events programs with success.

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