City Winery Atlanta’s concert venue can play host to seated private events for up to 350 people. (citywinery.com)

Public shows vs. private events: How City Winery Atlanta is handling big game

When the Super Bowl lands in town, so do scores of celebrities, athletes, businesspeople and politicians — and they want entertainment outside of the big game.

While some events, such as the inaugural Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest, serve both general admission and luxury attendees, others respond to the influx of high-end patrons by walling themselves off from the public.

That trend is in full effect in Atlanta this year, where several noteworthy rooms have empty calendars — for the public, at least — in the days surrounding the Super Bowl. For instance, a Live Nation executive tells VenuesNow that while The Tabernacle and the Coca-Cola Roxy have no announced bookings, “major brands” have rented out those venues for private and semiprivate events.

Other venues have partnered with the NFL itself. The Fox Theatre is an iconic venue — but because it’s hosting the NFL Honors the evening before the Super Bowl, its doors will be closed the week prior to prepare.

City Winery’s Atlanta location is something of a mixed bag. For some evenings around the big game, it’ll be closed to the public. On Thursday, it will host an event by popular football podcast “Around the NFL.” And on Friday, it’ll host Tribute, a cover band dedicated to the music of regional heroes The Allman Brothers Band.

To learn more about how a venue like City Winery goes about its Super Bowl weekend programming, VenuesNow connected with City Winery’s vice president of programming, Shlomo Lipetz.

Several Atlanta venues are closing for private events on Super Bowl weekend. What has City Winery’s strategy been for that weekend?
If we’re not announcing anything, it’s because we’re holding off and trying to capitalize on some of the bigger privates that are coming in that are associated with the Super Bowl. That’s a massive business door for the city. All the sponsors are throwing parties and ex-players and musicians are coming into town and throwing private events. We are definitely heavily involved in that. Most of our weekend is really dominated by Super Bowl-related private events with music-related concerts.

One private event brings in more money than three sold-out shows. From our perspective, we love privates. As a 300-seat venue, we’re always looking for an angle to bring in artists much bigger than would normally play (City Winery). To partner with Pepsi or Chevron or some other company to bring in an artist to do an afterparty or some other event is a great opportunity for us to showcase the venue.

How does City Winery go about booking Super Bowl weekend?
We did a lot of reach-out to artists we feel have a connection to Atlanta, like CeeLo Green. For routing shows, most agents seemed – rightfully – to want to avoid that weekend, because there was so much to do and so many distractions going on. As a promoter we make sure to remind agents of that, because we want the best success for the show.

Regardless, we have other venues. Even though there is no Super Bowl in New York, Chicago or Nashville, Super Bowl Sundays are specifically programmed around either LGBT or world music or programming we feel would draw people who may not have that big of an interest in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl affects not only us in Atlanta but our venues all over the country.

City Winery wasn’t around when the Super Bowl previously visited Atlanta in 1994 and 2000, but how do you imagine booking around the big game has changed since then?
You’re talking about dinosaurs! I think it’s pretty clear that it’s not the same sponsors and not the same promotions.

We’ve done large private events. We looked at Grammys weekend this past year in New York City and other large televised events that happened and approached the Super Bowl in Atlanta the same way. A lot of companies are looking to spend a lot of money and provide luxurious experiences. We’re an upscale venue and a venue that is able to provide much more than a stage. We have our wines. We can do multiple rooms so you can do multiple activations.