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The Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village is ramping up for the holiday season by hosting Christmas parties. Frosty the Snowman and elves are on hand, as well as man-made snow that is blown over the back patio.

There is a bit more cheer to the holiday season this year.

Much like the overall economy, business-related Christmas parties are making a comeback, albeit slowly.

It's good news for employees who are getting the year-end perk, and for operators of venues like restaurants and hotels that host the events.

It also a reflection of confidence on the part of businesses bubbling up from the depths of the Great Recession.

"I just think that everyone has sort of had it with being down. We're looking for any excuse to have permission to have fun and to feel good about ourselves again," said Joseph Molina, founder and president of JMPR Public Relations Inc. in Woodland Hills.

"It's time to blow off a little steam."

One way to quantify this change in attitude can be seen at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, which has seen an increase in holiday party bookings by 40 percent this year, according to marketing director Stuart Burdette.

"But it's not yet back to the elevated years of 2007 and 2006," he added.

Burdette said he senses clients have been gradually feeling better about the economy. "This is the third year in a row of growth in revenue and occupancy," he said.

Another longtime popular venue for company parties is the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City, which is seeing an increase of about 20 percent this year.

"People are still watching their dimes but I definitely see an increase in optimism this year," said lodge general manager Laurence Whiting.


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Clients are spending a bit more money this year, too, for example springing for a seafood bar and more extensive menu, he said. He also has been getting last-minute bookings again.

Therese Tucker, chief executive officer of Woodland Hills-based Blackline Systems, hosted a party last Friday night for 145 people at Mercato di Vetro, an Italian restaurant in West Hollywood.

The company rented the restaurant for the evening.

This year's party was bigger than last year's bash, said Tucker, who declined to discuss financial details.

"A big part of that is we've grown so much as a company. We easily had 20 percent more people this year," she said.

Charles Best, the company's chief financial officer, said about 95 people attended last year's party, which was also held at a restaurant.

"Creating a good environment and having a nice place to work is important to her," Best said of Tucker. "Events like this are very good for employee morale and retention."

Molina founded his PR firm 35 years ago this month, weathering more than one recession since then. The company maintained an even financial keel during the last one by focusing on a month-to-month strategy rather than long term.

"We have a lot to be thankful for so we are going to celebrate," he said.

On Friday, Molina treated his staff of 14 to a lunch at Marrakesh in Studio City, which specializes in Moroccan cuisine.

Of course, belly dancing was to be involved.

"We wanted to do something that was a little off beat and off kilter. We will be eating with our hands."

His budget?

"There is no budget. Whatever it takes," he said.

Across town in Sun Valley at Rem Eyeware the celebration was held in-house, which was fine with the employees.

The company paid for a catered lunch from Chin Chin, a Chinese restaurant in Studio City.

Mike Hundert, the company's president and chief executive officer, said that Rem used to hold off-site galas.

Employees at Rem Eyeware in Sun Valley line up for Chinese food to celebrate the holiday season.
Employees at Rem Eyeware in Sun Valley line up for Chinese food to celebrate the holiday season. (David Crane/Staff Photographer)
A couple of years ago he surveyed the staff and asked what they wanted.

Bonuses was the response, and Hundert agreed.

The amount each year depends on how the company does.

"Business has been robust for the past couple of years and as a result we have been able to give meaningful bonuses to people," he said.

greg.wilcox@dailynews.com

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