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Return Of The Office Holiday Party: Despite Evolving Threat From COVID-19, Companies Say They're Safely Surging Ahead

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Office holiday parties are happening again. For some, it's the first opportunity to meet co-workers in more than a year.

But event spaces told CBS2's Lisa Rozner recently that safety is as much a part of the party as the food.

"This is an outdoor dining room, event space and more. During COVID, we decided to install these heaters," said Gary Wallach, director of food and beverage for Arlo SoHo.

The heaters were installed when indoor dining was suspended last December, and now Arlo Soho says companies are booking holiday parties in its courtyard, on its rooftop, and even utilizing cabins shipped in from Canada that have porch access.

"We are seeing a week-out emails piling in. Everyone is just watching the news," Wallach said.

COVID VACCINE

Bookings can be made as soon as 24 hours in advance at The Williamsburg hotel, where The Org is flying in employees from Denmark, some of who only previously "Zoomed" with their U.S. counterparts.

A dinner party for around 60 people will be held in its library room, followed by dancing in the water tower with an outdoor terrace and skyline views.

"The serendipity of just being in the same place far outshines Zoom," said Cirkeline Ask, community manager Copenhagen for The Org.

"The entire business is built on relationships," added Kaila J. Lim, the company's community manager in New York City.

Everyone will need to provide proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test at least three days in advance.

"We are asking them to screenshot it and send it to me over Slack," Lim said.

Some companies are going beyond requiring vaccination. They're actually having testing on site.

The Lucira molecular test gives results in 30 minutes or less.

Another being used is the BD Veritor, available on Amazon, that connects to your smartphone. Results can go directly to a manager.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Despite the threat from the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the hotel said it has had a few postponements, but is seeing most parties safely keep it small.

"No plus ones this year," said Tatiana Thompson, event manager at The Williamsburg Hotel. "Guests don't want to do family style as much, they want to do plated options, so nobody's sharing utensils."

B'Artusi in the West Village says cocktail parties are in demand instead of seated dinners, and Pig Beach in Brooklyn and Queens is capping parties at 100.

"This is bringing definitely the morale back to all the employees," Pig Beach events coordinator Jairo Presnial said.

It's a morale boost for the recovering restaurant and hospitality industry, and employees who've powered through the pandemic.

Some venues have projectors so employees can still attend the party virtually, if they're not comfortable coming in person.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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