The coastal communities of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach are as picture-perfect as a beach postcard. Surfers catch waves by the pier while volleyball players compete on the sand courts that dot the shoreline. A 22-mile bike path known as The Strand lures cyclists to pedal along the South Bay’s entire stretch of coastline.
However, these once-sleepy seaside cities known for their pristine beaches, multimillion-dollar real estate and charming shops and eateries are experiencing a growth spurt. With new boutique hotels and worldclass restaurants opening, the South Bay is poised to become the next big meetings and events destination.
“I think people are getting tired of Santa Monica,” says Ryan Leach, general manager of the soon-to-be-open Shade Hotel Redondo Beach. “They’re looking for something new, and the South Bay has a lot to offer.”
Meet You at Manhattan Beach
Located just a few miles south of Los Angeles International Airport, Manhattan Beach has been capturing the attention of meeting and event planners from around the Golden State. Its pedestrian-friendly downtown area, just up the road from the Manhattan Beach pier, is abuzz with exclusive shops, inviting cafes and some of the best restaurants in the Southland.
Situated in Metlox Plaza in the heart of downtown, the stylish all-suites Shade Hotel Manhattan Beach has hosted gatherings for such companies as Skechers, Facebook and Dealer.com. The modern three-story, 38-room property has five main event spaces, including the 1,446-square-foot open-air Courtyard with its two-story succulent wall, perfect for private dinners under the stars. Groups can also enjoy a reception on the 940-square-foot Zinc Terrace in front of the hotel or in the 1,334-square-foot Zinc Lounge in the hotel’s main reception area. The 950-square-foot rooftop Skydeck centers around the hotel’s pool, creating a casual backdrop for luncheons or outdoor training sessions. In addition, the second-floor Green Room features 672 square feet of meeting room space.
“We are here to look after every detail of your event—from reservations to activities to dietary-restricted menu plans,” says General Manager Shaunna McKelvey. “We want the Shade experience to be one of flexibility, service and quality.” Active groups can take advantage of Shade’s complimentary bikes and yoga classes on the rooftop deck. The hotel staff is also happy to arrange group dinners at some of Manhattan Beach’s top restaurants. For a relatively small beach town, Manhattan Beach has an impressive dining scene, including beachfront The Strand House and Rock ‘N Fish seafood restaurant, which are also part of Shade owner Mike Zislis’ hospitality group. The Strand House features a private wine cellar that can host a six-course tasting menu for up to 10, a semiprivate dining room for up to 40 seated, and a first-floor StrandBar that can be rented out for cocktail parties with passed appetizers and catering stations for up to 125. Rock ‘N Fish’s mezzanine area above the main dining room can accommodate groups of up to 30, while its covered patio seats up to 40.
To compete with the city’s top eateries, Shade recently promoted Ashley Oates to executive chef. The Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts graduate has been charged with expanding the hotel’s dinner menus. She sources her top-notch ingredients from local farmers markets to create such specialties as Catalan-style mussels and clams with chorizo and fennel, herb-crusted New Zealand lamb, and salmon with mushroom risotto.
Oates’s kitchen also handles the hotel’s events catering. One highlight, which groups of all ages and almost all dietary persuasions adore, is the Chocoholic Meeting Break, a sugar rush of fresh baked cookies and brownies, chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate truffles and white and dark chocolate mousse parfaits, all of which can be washed down with whole, low-fat, skim and chocolate milk.
Among Manhattan Beach’s most notable dining establishments is The Arthur J, a retro-style steakhouse by chef David LeFevre. While The Arthur J doesn’t have a private dining area, sections of the dining room or lounge may be reserved for semiprivate events. Events can include custom welcome cocktails and passed apps in The Arthur J lounge, followed by a seated multicourse menu in the dining room with meats carved tableside and baked Alaska served au flambé as the grand finale.
“We host private and semiprivate events at all of the restaurants,” says Operating Partner Jerry Garbus. “We have a sky-is-the-limit policy and are happy to customize to create special experiences.” This might mean an all-raw bar fete at Fishing with Dynamite, with oysters shucked all night, or family-style menus for large groups at M.B. Post.
Event planners can even organize a progressive dinner, since LeFevre’s notable restaurants are within a short walk of each other. “We actually just ‘sold’ our first progressive dinner at a local charity auction,” says Garbus. “It hasn’t taken place yet, but all we asked is that we have at least four to five weeks notice so that we can coordinate the reservation times.” \
Hanging Out in Hermosa Beach
Just south of Manhattan Beach, the community of Hermosa Beach is growing up. Once known as a party town for surfers and twentysomethings, Hermosa is slowly evolving into more of a destination with upscale restaurants and a new hotel from real estate developer Raju Chhabria. The contemporary 30-room boutique property on Hermosa Avenue will be called H20 and is scheduled to open as early as Fall 2017.
Hermosa’s dining scene has also evolved, thanks in large part to the Blackhouse Hospitality Group, helmed by partners Jed Sanford and chef Tin Vuong. The duo has brought more sophisticated dining options to the area in the last few years, from the dry-aged steaks and vintage whisky at Steak and Whisky (the 50-seat restaurant is available for buyout) to the upscale American bistro-style menu and craft beer at Abigaile, where group dining options are plentiful (the entire space, which seats 200, is available for buyout, the patio seats 36, and there is also a chef’s table for 16 guests, a brewmaster’s table for 36 and a communal pew that accommodates 32). Blackhouse also operates Hermosa’s Dia de Campo (where private dining ranges from a complete buyout for 130 guests to semiprivate chef’s table, fireplace dining and lounge) and Ocean Bar & Lounge (the flexible space can seat 250 in a full buyout, while an indoor lounge, patio, rooftop and sundeck patio are available for private groups of 40 to 130), as well as Little Sister in Manhattan Beach, which can be bought out for events.
A popular spot for corporate retreats, board meetings or training sessions is the Beach House Hotel Hermosa Beach hotel, featuring 20,000 square feet of indoor space and a 2,200-square-foot outside patio. On-site catering is required for events, and the hotel offers a variety of meeting package menus, from boxed lunches to oceanside or beachfront barbecues.
Located just north of the Hermosa Beach Pier on The Strand, the Beach House offers beachfront living—even if it’s just for a day or two— in spacious guest rooms with a living room and bedroom area, fireplace, complimentary high-speed wireless access and a patio or balcony. Best of all, 75 percent of the property’s rooms feature views of the nearby crashing waves.
Event planners looking for a fun after-meeting option may want to consider a night at Hermosa’s Comedy & Magic Club, which has been attracting big-name comedians like Daniel Tosh, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Arsenio Hall since 1978. In fact, Jay Leno regularly performs his act here to try out new material in front of a small audience. While seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis, groups of 20 can opt for a group dinner package and receive priority seating.
The Renaissance of Redondo Beach
Farther south, Redondo Beach is positioned for a major renovation by CenterCal Properties. Though still in the approval phase, the developers have proposed an ambitious $300 million redevelopment plan for the city’s waterfront, spanning more than 35 acres from the Seaside Lagoon to the Redondo Beach Pier. Plans include new buildings like a 120-room waterfront boutique hotel, the addition of 11 acres of landscaped parks and open spaces and an extensive renovation of the historic pier and its restaurants and seafood stalls.
In the more immediate future, the 54-room Shade Hotel Redondo Beach is planning an August 2016 opening. Set on the marina, the chic sister property of Shade Hotel Manhattan Beach will feature two freestanding buildings: one for its guest rooms and rooftop pool and one for 9,034 square feet of event space, include a restaurant on its ground floor, a horizon-level ballroom on the second floor and a sky level deck for outdoor events on the third floor.
Leach says he’s been pleased with how supportive the local community has been about the new property and is looking forward to welcoming guests to the highly anticipated new hotel. “When we make our mark, we want to be known for the quality experience that is part of the Shade brand,” he says. Once the hotel opens, Leach envisions a shuttle bus to take visitors between the two properties so that guests can make use of both spaces.
Across the street from the marina and a few blocks from King Harbor, the recently renovated 112-room Redondo Beach Hotel welcomes groups with its two flexible meeting rooms: the Promenade for up to 100 attendees and the Topside for 45. In addition, the harbor-view hotel features 2,750 square feet of outdoor space, much of which overlooks the waterfront. While there is no restaurant on-site, the hotel serves complimentary breakfast daily, afternoon fruit, cookies and coffee and tea, and wine, beer and snacks Sunday through Thursday. Meetings are catered by the local New York Food Company.
Additional meeting space can be found at the Portofino Hotel, located in the heart of King Harbor. A member of Noble House Hotels & Resorts Collection, the property offers more than 8,000 square feet of meetings and events space, including eight meeting and banquet rooms. There is also an outdoor space for weddings and events. Its on-site restaurant, BALEENKitchen, can also be reserved for private events.
As Redondo Beach continues to revitalize and grow, Leach says the South Bay hospitality community is excited about the future of this beach city. “Competition,” he says, “breeds excellence.”