Thanks for your tips and advice. ?We drove all over the city yesterday looking at venues and I wanted to give you some of my notes/thoughts for your future reference. ?I'm happy to answer any questions.
National Aquarium -- Crazy expensive, like $3000 for 4 hours.
UM Law -- No Weekends, not excited about outsiders
Westminster Hall -- Expensive and already booked
Places we Visited:
Maryland Science Center: Nice, $750 for the day for a large indoor conference room. ?Attached to a large terrace with view of the harbor. ?Can be tented. ?Catering looks reasonable. ?Just four blocks from the convention center, this is going to be our venue. ?Includes some access to the museum/exhibits.
Bertha's in Fells Point: Cute studio on the top floor. ?It'd be small for more than about 20 people, but very usable for a user group meeting or something like that. ?Very cheap. ?Has a piano, and kick butt food.
Waterfront Hotel: Second floor can be rented "free" if you're buying food/drink. ?Beautiful space. ?Wouldn't give it to me for a Sunday because they do too much brunch business. ?There's a back bar that's cozy, has nice natural light, and just looks like fun. ?I'm thinking about putting together a happy hour here during RailsConf. ?If any other people/groups are interested in co-sponsoring, let me know.
Schiavone Fine Art: Dan, a member of this list, has a great space available. ?There's also a commercial-grade kitchen attached along with a funky den/party room downstairs. ?This would be a perfect venue for a "friends" get together. ?Like if you want to put together a RailsRumble spot where people could be working, eating, sleeping, working, etc, this would be a great fit. ?We decided that it was a little too far off the beaten path for our likely out-of-towner customers though.
Emerging Technologies Center (ETC): Most of you know this space. ?The conference room would be good for about 20. ?It seemed that they've rent the room free if we'd offer enough of a discount to ETC tenants on the ticket price. ?They made a big point about requiring we have "insurance" -- general liability insurance I guess? ?Office staff wasn't interested in discussing any space besides the conference room. ?Building is normally closed on the weekend. ?I know many of you have strings that could be pulled at the ETC, but it'd still come #2 behind the Science Center because of location.
Maryland Institute College of Art: I expected one building, they have like 6. ?It's huge! ?Large variety of rooms from wood-paneled meeting rooms to huge spartan drawing studios. ?Rooms were each around $1500 for the day. ?Light rail is blocks away. ?Have to use their caterer, so for an event like ours you're looking at $4K by the time you feed people. ?Good option if transportation is ok with your audience.
Creative Alliance: AWESOME space. ?They have a performance room with a raised stage, movable seating, and sweet A/V setup (including an iMac). ?Also a more open exhibit space with rotating art. ?Really cool vibe to the people and building. ?Price was around $100/hour but had some flexibility. ?Outside food/catering is ok. ?I really liked it. ?We would probably have to rent a shuttle bus to ferry people to/from the convention center area, though, which upped the costs. ?This place would be on my short list for any medium-large event, especially a performance, cocktail party, or something like that.
Besides visiting Dan's space and meeting the man directly, when we ate lunch at Bertha's there was a brass plaque next to our table commemorating Dan's pool tourney victory in '89 (as memory serves) and I also found out he co-founded Creative Alliance. ?This guy is Balti-famous :)