LIVINGSTON, NJ — A renovation project that has been in the works for more than four years at Livingston’s Crystal Plaza, one of the top event venues in the tri-state area, is finally nearing completion as indoor gathering restrictions also continue to ease in New Jersey.
After breaking ground on the project in February 2020, the Crystal Plaza Group recently revealed its three most highly anticipated improvements, which include a new indoor ceremony room to mimic the luxury of the famed grand ballroom, state-of-the-art suites to better accommodate the guests of honor and an access point to the lush gardens that had previously been missing from inside the venue.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused many clients to cancel or postpone their events over the last year, Director of Sales Max Janoff said the extra time allowed the Crystal Plaza Group to complete the renovations five months ahead of schedule.
“When we broke ground in February, we were doing construction in between events, which meant we were going to have to do construction, clean up, host an event, do construction, clean up, host an event, and continue that cycle three or four times a week,” he said. “It was going to delay the process and probably not make for the best experience for our clients, but we were going to do what we had to do. Then when COVID happened, we realized we could use this as a silver lining and decided to get this construction done as fast as possible.”
A year after breaking ground, Janoff said the renovations have far exceeded the expectations of the entire Crystal Plaza team and the clients who have already been able to experience the new perks.
“It’s kind of funny how it has come full circle,” he said. “For clients who booked last year that were disappointed to find out that their event was going to be during construction, we were able to make concessions to make them happy and resolve that issue; but then COVID happened and they postponed their event, and now they aren’t getting all the construction. Obviously, nobody wants to postpone their event and go through what we went through, but now these clients are getting the renovations that they weren’t expecting, so there's a benefit to that.”
Over the last few weeks, Crystal Plaza brides have walked away more satisfied than ever before thanks to the new Penthouse Suite, which features a bar, individual dressers for bridesmaids, a stage to get changed on, a steam shower, a full hair-and-makeup salon, an anti-gravity massage chair and more.
“Our suites just didn't match the industry, and it didn't represent The Crystal Plaza the right way, so we wanted to go above and beyond and create the best of the best,” said Janoff, adding that new Penthouse Suite is already being recognized across the state. “We even added another suite across the hall called the Chandelier Suite so that if there's an afternoon event, they have their own private space that doesn't interfere with the evening event, and then it can be used later for the evening events so the grandparents or parents can have a little privacy as well.”
The Penthouse Suite replaces the room previously used for indoor ceremonies, which will now be held in Janoff’s favorite new room, The Atrium.
“People liked the intimacy of it, but it had low ceilings, and it really didn't accommodate enough people,” he said. “We wanted to do something more grand—something that can match our ballroom for ceremonies.
“The Atrium is an unbelievable new room. It has a 60-foot custom glass skylight and a balcony that overlooks the gardens, and it's the most flexible space we have. It can be used as a cocktail hour space; it could be used as your indoor ceremony space; it can be used for an after party; it could be used as reception space for smaller events; and we are also going to be doing corporate dinners, holiday dinners and corporate parties up there.”
Janoff was also enthusiastic about the new corridor, which provides direct access from inside the venue to the garden where most ceremonies are held.
“Creating an access point is something that we saw as a must-do,” said Janoff. “Honestly, it might sound silly, but that might be my favorite piece of the renovation. Forever, we’ve had to go all the way around the building and all the way back if we forgot something or if a guest was late, so this corridor is just such a convenience factor that we were so overdue to have.”
The Atrium and the corridor are part of an addition that was built in the early stages of construction, which also included brand-new offices that Janoff said already “feel like home.”
Small changes have also been made to more familiar spaces like the garden patio, which now features new flowers and chandeliers, and the grand ballroom, which now has a new lighting system, new paint and fewer curtains.
“It really just feels fresher,” said Janoff. “Clients that have been here a million times have walked into the room saying, ‘Oh wow, what a difference.’ As minor as it is, it has made a huge difference.”
Despite being put on hold to allow for other renovations to take priority, construction on the final piece of the project—a downstairs groom suite dubbed “The Vault”—has resumed over the last few weeks. According to Janoff, the renovations should be fully complete by mid-summer.
“We never really had a space for the guys to get ready; we used to just kind of stick them wherever we could,” said Janoff. “Now we have one of the best, or I would argue the best, in the industry. There's a golf simulator, a pool table, a barbershop, restrooms, it's ventilated for cigars, there’s a wine cellar in there—it’s really going to be an unbelievable space, and they're here now working hard on it every day.”
The Crystal Plaza is currently hosting events with up to 150 guests, not including entertainment and event staff. All events are held with robust COVID-19 avoidance measures in place, including gloved and masked staff members, health checks for all staff members and thorough pre-event sanitization.
“Safety is definitely our first priority,” said Janoff. “We can't operate at the highest degree if people are getting sick or if this plague affects us. It's been very successful so far. Our staff feels very comfortable being here, and we have a simple policy that if they are not feeling well for any reason, we ask them to stay home.
“From a guest perspective, it's been kind of a blessing where we haven't really had any issues with guests. What I've seen is that there is kind of a common understanding that these brides and grooms have been through a lot and everyone wants to do whatever it takes to make sure their day is as perfect as possible. So it's been a very respectful and pleasant process with the guests as well.”
Guests are asked to wear masks and submit to a temperature check upon a rival, but are not otherwise restricted once indoors. According to Janoff, many recent clients have suggested that guests get tested for COVID-19 prior to the event, but the venue has no intention of considering pre-event testing as a mandatory practice.
“It is quite expensive to do, and to make events do that is a cost that I think is unnecessary,” he said. “I think people need to understand that there is a genuine risk in going outside their house in general or going to an event, and if they are going to come to an event, we hope that they take it upon their responsibility to know that they are going to one at the end of the day.”
With people adopting a more positive attitude toward in-person events with each passing day, Janoff said the Crystal Plaza team is “ready to get back to work.”
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