As Hollywood’s finest strut the Red Carpet at the 90th annual Academy Awards on March 4, we mere mortals are forced to take a back seat and watch the festivities on a screen. But that doesn’t have to translate to FOMO. Here are a few ways restaurateurs are going to celebrate our favorite guy in gold by hosting their own viewing parties.
Go Glam or Go Home
A big night demands big attention. Consider a red carpet the ultimate way to invite your guests into the evening’s affair.
“This is Los Angeles. We love red carpets,” says David Cooley, owner of The Abbey, West Hollywood’s favorite gay restaurant/bar and Oscar viewing party host for almost 20 years. “We’ve made the event a community celebration to bring people together to watch the awards show.”
This translates to a lavish red carpet greeting patrons, as well as a media wall for paparazzi photo opps. “You’ll see people dressed in black tie, as they watch the awards with us before they head out to the many studio after-parties in the neighborhood.”
G.H. Mumm makes sure the bubbles are popping, and adds fun theatrical elements through the evening, including a Champagne sabering on the red carpet.
“People love an excuse to dress up. We just to give them a little extra glamour during the Oscars, so they feel great about wearing a black tie,” says Cooley, adding his staff will also be donning their bow tie best.
Without the tape delay, the party begins at 4 pm with the red carpet and continues until 8 pm. “Immediately afterwards, we transition to a full-on dance party. We also have a DJ who plays during the commercial breaks to keep the energy up,” he adds.
A Nod to the Noms
“I’ve seen restaurants run food specials based on actors’ favorite dishes or places where nominated movies have taken place,” says Jennifer Schubert, general manager of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse in Manhattan. “New York is a city full of actors and movie buffs, so we always try to do something special during the Oscars, such as a good special or cocktail.”
This year Davio’s will serve a cocktail line-up inspired by best performances – a bubbles blend of prosecco and spritzer for Meryl Streep in The Post, a Tennessee whiskey drink for Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, and of course the Margot Robbie in I, Tonya – a clever cognac with pulverized sugar, crushed ice, mint, sliced lemon and berries.
“We chose ingredients we thought each actor would enjoy in a cocktail for themselves based on their movie personas,” says Schubert.
The Envelope Please
Just because your guests don’t have Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences memberships doesn’t mean they can’t join the 7,000-plus official voters in supporting their favorite performances. Handing out awards ballots for the night’s winning predictions (with prizes waiting in the wings) is a great way to include everyone.
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“Oscar ballots engage the guest. It’s fun to make predictions and tune in for the outcome. It’s like fantasy football for the Oscars,” explains Schubert. Davio’s will be passing out ballots and awarding gift cards, while The Abbey takes a just-for-fun approach of bragging rights.
“I’ve also seen Oscar movie trivia nights at different establishments, which is always a fun way for guests to spend the evening,” adds Schubert.
Don’t Forget Your Winning Staff
While Boston isn’t strong with Oscar nominations this year, Jamaica Plain bar and restaurant Canary Square is still getting everyone pumped, including their staff.
“The whole staff gets behind it and are awarded their own Best Dressed awards,” says manager Mary McGrath. “They get very competitive during our Oscar party and try to one up each other with their attire. People come in tuxedos and gowns, and some actually dress like characters from the award-winning movies. I’m hoping to see a Tonya Harding or two this year.”
Trophies are also given out to guests in the Best Couple and Best Dressed categories. The party continues with passed apps and complimentary champagne to start the night, along with a red carpet, movie posters and balloons, and Oscar-themed food and drinks.
Why not give a night centering on the oft-showy world of Hollywood more meaning and choose a charity to donate your evening’s proceeds?
Past Oscar events at The Abbey have served as ticketed fundraisers for APLA Health, raising over $2 million towards the non-profit’s goal in well-being for the LGBT community and people living with HIV. This year’s viewing party at Outlier in Seattle is a night of dressed-to-impress glitz with a red carpet, photographer, live DJ, multiple viewing screens and Oscars-themed cocktails, while 100 percent of ticket sales goes to local non-profit partner FareStart to provide solutions to homelessness, joblessness, poverty and hunger.
“Our upcoming Oscars event is the perfect opportunity to place a spotlight on serious issues in Seattle that we care deeply about,” says general manager Brian McFarland.
Whether you fill the evening with eponymous cocktails or Best Picture ballot conversation, Oscar night is a huge opportunity to celebrate.
“No matter how small, add some element of glamour,” says Cooley. “A little bit of gold and little bit of champagne can go a long way.”