Malls Using Empty Spaces To Get Into The Party Venue Business

Image courtesy of Stewart Butterfield

Maybe you’re horrified by the idea of getting married or having your family reunion inside a mall, but the huge spaces left vacant by the recent spate of store closures may just be the perfect venue for your next big party.

After all, there are positives to hosting a big event at the local mall. There should be ample parking (especially near Sears), and it’s a lot easier to give out-of-town visitors directions to a huge mall than it is to point them to a rented venue on a private road somewhere.

Some mall operators are aleady beginning to cash in on their unoccupied retail spaces. The Dallas Morning News points to a handful of area spots –– like a former Pier One, an empty restaurant, and a movie theater that hasn’t shown a film in ages –– that have begun a new life as event spaces.

The mall vacancies are coming at a time when the hospitality industry appears to be moving away from providing event venues.

Some newer hotels are now built without the ballrooms and conference spaces that have long played home to events like weddings, proms, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras, and even mundane business meetings.

More importantly, unlike retail stores, the party business can’t be shifted to e-commerce. It has to happen in real life.

“The value of visiting a shopping mall extends beyond retail as properties continue to incorporate non-traditional tenants,” a spokeswoman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade organization, told the Morning News.

The mall operator itself doesn’t have to handle the bookings: the space can be leased to another business just as a store or restaurant would be. At other shopping centers, the mall’s atrium or other common spaces can be available during off hours for party rental.

Minnesota’s Mall of America has always had party spaces available since it opened in 1992, and the trend toward mixed-use development incorporates party venues along with shopping, hotels, condos, and restaurants.