It may be hard to imagine that a one-time hospital laundromat could be turned into an elegant events venue, but that’s exactly what has happened at Palladium Saint Louis in Lafayette Square. The space’s dramatic floating mezzanine and soaring, two-story windows with cityscape views are a long way from its previous incarnation as part of City Hospital.
“Palladium Saint Louis is a modern revitalization of a historic 1937 building, and we’ve pulled out all the stops,” says Richard Nix, president of Butler’s Pantry, the catering company behind the new venue. “The space has a sophisticated ambience and sleek contemporary design. It’s not the usual chandeliers-and-tufted-walls look that you find in most hotel ballrooms, but it doesn’t seem like a bar or disco, either. It’s elegant and unique.”
The venue officially opens Saturday, Nov. 7, appropriately with a benefit gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis. “Preserving these beautiful old structures is our mission, and it’s exciting to see the City Hospital complex and the entire neighborhood around it coming back,” says Bill Schawacker, a Landmarks Association board member. “Those buildings have amazing character and history.”
The site had been vacant since 1985. “It was in pretty bad shape when we first saw it,” Nix admits. He credits Chris Goodson of Gilded Age Development Group, Lawrence Group Architects and interior designer Mark Herman of MArK Inc. for restoring and renewing the 6,500-square foot space.
Nix says he searched 10 years for the right venue. “We had, if you’ll excuse the expression, a laundry list of features we wanted, including ample parking and a convenient location accessible by major highways,” he recalls. “We definitely wanted to be downtown, a venue can’t live on weekend weddings alone. We wanted to fill those Tuesday through Thursday slots, and we’re hoping our access to the downtown business community and convention facilities will enable us to do that.”
Thanks ‘floating petals,’ or walls that fold back into the ceiling, the venue can accommodate anywhere from 150 to 700 guests “up to 500 for a sit-down dinner and 700 for cocktails,” Nix says. “Versatility is a must. We paid great attention to scale and proportion so smaller, more intimate events won’t get lost. The space works equally well for weddings, galas and other social events, and because we’re equipped with theatrical lighting and state-of-the-art audio/visual capability, we can also handle corporate functions and trade shows. We might even book a few concerts. The sight lines are incredible: the intricate truss system that holds up the roof eliminates the need for posts. It’s beautifully built and designed. We think St. Louisans will love it.”
Nix knows his audience. His parents, Richard and Anita Nix, founded Butler’s Pantry in 1966. Since then, it has grown into one of Missouri’s largest full-service catering companies. “During a typical year, we coordinate and supervise nearly 800 unique events,” he says. “The stability and quality of our family-owned business is solidly behind Palladium, but we’ll have a new culinary team and menu under chef de cuisine Todd Lough, and a more innovative style.”
It’s always been his family’s dream to provide the most creative catering in town, Nix adds. “Now, with Palladium Saint Louis, we’ve found the perfect venue,” he says. “It’s an exciting addition to the downtown scene, and it’s good to know we’re giving a fantastic building new life instead of bulldozing it.”