Rooftop entertaining can take your party to the next level
THE SKY’S THE LIMIT: 3Fifty Terrace atop Music Hall offers a 7-story view.
Photographs by Cybelle Codish; Styling by Erika Patterson
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All over town, people are discovering that party space options are looking up — to the rooftop that is.
In the last few years — with more buildings getting refurbished and the hunt intensifying for unique event spaces — those who run businesses and living quarters are discovering there’s fun to be had (and money to be made) partying in the sky.
If your party is at the Madison Building in Detroit or the Detroit Opera House, you can look straight into Comerica Park. At the Park Shelton, you get a great view of Midtown. And the 3Fifty Terrace at Music Hall in Detroit is expansive and can accommodate a tent.
Some rooftops aren’t where you expect — parking structures, older but functional, offer big and open spaces. Newer facilities, such as the Detroit Z Garage, were built with entertaining in mind.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a rooftop or terrace where you live or work, there are a few logistics to consider. Most commercial rooftop rental spaces have it all figured out — providing outdoor kitchens, bathroom facilities, great seating choices, lighting, and an elevator that’ll take you there. Some older buildings aren’t as decked out (you may have to hoof it when you get closer to the top). And if you’re hosting it all yourself, you’ll have to get furniture, food, and drinks up there by yourself.
Then there’s the weather. Rooftop events are only feasible during two (and maybe — and that’s a big maybe — three) seasons of the year. When you’re putting all your people outside, you’re completely al fresco. That means there’s rain, cold, and wind to consider. The higher you go, the chillier the air can be. Bad weather can quickly turn an amazing event into a bust. And that can be disappointing when you consider that many great spaces can cost thousands to rent.
Fortunately, party rental companies will figure out getting all the party stuff you need there, including tables, chairs, linens, and lighting.
For those who can just walk upstairs to our own rooftops, clean space and permission are all you need. If your roof has nothing — nary a chair nor table — and renting isn’t in the budget, think big floor pillows you can reuse or ask friends to bring their own folding or camping chairs.
While real dishes, silverware, and such are nice, high-quality disposables are perfectly acceptable. Electric lanterns, candles, and strings of lights can make a dark space magical … and safe, since the best time to party is at night.
Of course, it’s not a party without food and drink. When it comes to eats, you might have to hire a caterer (some rental spots require you to hire theirs), or you can bring your own chow. Think of it as a picnic in the sky. Transport what you need and serve it mostly cold or at room temperature. If you can schlep up a grill to your rooftop, bonus (again, rental spaces often provide their own grills).
In the summer, bright, fresh salads and simple cooked proteins are good to put on the menu. With a grill, marinated meats, burgers, and such are the perfect casual fare. Of course, if you can bring it and chill it for safety, anything — plain or fancy — can be apropos.
For drinks, aside from having enough, lots of ice for chilling is the key consideration. Offering a signature drink in a large server is easy and logical — and there’s less to transport.
Rooftop parties can be hosted any time of the day, but nighttime is when the warm glow of city lights and the relaxed atmosphere offer even more “wow.” And, of course, at night “… the stars, they put on a show for free.”