Upon entering the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, few would have background on how the District’s newest state-of-the-art dining facility came to reside in its lower level. However, just prior to the opening of the Washington Auto Show, Events DC hosted a Customer Appreciation and Auto Show Sneak Peek event that gave guests a behind-the-scenes view into the stories and strategies behind the food offerings.
Events DC, which manages the Convention Center, provided the Informer with a history of the space. When Aramark became the in-house food and beverage partner at the Convention Center they made capital contributions of nearly $16 million towards renovations. Beginning with the Uptown Food Court, located on the L Street Bridge side of the building, Aramark brought local pillars, like Ben’s Chili Bowl, to the center. Representatives emphasized the focus of the overhaul was to highlight District brands.
The Convention Center’s newest dining facility boasts 17,000 square feet and comfortably accommodates 400 people. The view from the space offers sweeping views overlooking the center’s showroom.
The space features multiple food stations and can be used for cooking demonstrations. This unique dining product offers Events DC’s global clientele a diverse option, enabling Events DC to continue leading one of the most successful convention centers in the nation.
However, the space doesn’t come in the absence of concern from the community. Questions regarding the affordability of renting the dining facility, by small and local businesses, have been raised. One small, local business owner, declining to be named, voiced, “How can businesses, like mine, afford this place? Are there going to be options for folks in the community to rent this venue?”
When asked how much the space rents for, Events DC commented that the daily rate was $10,000, plus additional costs for food and beverage. Events DC representatives explained that, while the space was conceptualized for the benefit of their corporate clients, they are focused on serving the community: “This space is just another option for economic development and also for local businesses. They [businesses] can talk to the sales team, who has discretion in pricing.”
While small business owners are concerned with the space’s affordability, their concerns may be moot because of demand.
“As one of the busiest convention centers in the nation, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center wants to remain at the forefront and attract local, national and international business,” said Events DC President and CEO Angie Gates.
Events DC representatives candidly shared that they have so much demand, for national and international conventions, that the space may not have the vacancies business owner’s anticipate.
Vacancy protocol aside, the story of Aramark’s transformation of the space is the focus. With their investment, a formerly dingy, employees-only luncheon area became a luxurious corporate event space. Moreover, Events DC’s mission is to generate economic and community benefits for the residents and businesses of the District of Columbia by creating a premier event experience in the nation’s capital.
“ [The facility] brings a robust economic impact to the entire city – including booked restaurants, hotel stays and visitors,” Gates said.