Local Staffing Service Celebrates 20 Years In Chattanooga

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Black Tie Affair, the Chattanooga-based server and bartending service, celebrated its 20th anniversary on Jan. 1 of this year, and is still growing. 

The owner, Pete Lapina, said he has seen a lot of changes since he started Black Tie Affair on Jan. 1, 1994 – changes in the business, in the industry, and in Chattanooga itself. 

“At that time, Chattanooga wasn’t seeing the influx of wealth that’s so noticeable today,” Mr. Lapina said. “Nor did it have the reputation it now enjoys as a destination for high-end conventions and galas.” 

Mr. Lapina’s first staffing “gig,” as he likes to call them, was a gala for the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Chattanooga Chefs & Cooks Association. The group was short on servers and bartenders, and since Mr. Lapina had been in the restaurant business, he knew the right people for the job.

Mr. Lapina’s service that evening was so well received that he was inspired to start his own business, which he first called “Black Tie Temps.” It would be 10 long months before the company’s first gig. Mr. Lapina thought he would primarily be needed for in-home parties, and only occasionally work with caterers who needed extra staff members. The opposite happened. The catering industry entered a period of rapid growth. As a result, many caterers were equipped to provide food and beverage service for their events but lacked the necessary staff. That’s where Black Tie Affair stepped in. 

In addition to the off-site events, Black Tie Affair branched out, catering to local country clubs and private organizations. Mr. Lapina provided more than just staff; he provided consultation and training to many local restaurants and private venues. As Chattanoogans got to know the team, local companies, politicians and non-profits started requesting them by name. Since then, they’ve been behind the scenes everywhere, from swanky events for First Lady Laura Bush to parties in barns and everything in between. 

Mr. Lapina also provides free consultation with each event helping the host be the expert to know how to properly stock the bar or plan the layout of the room. He said weddings have been a special niche for BTA, because of their ability to regularly staff insured and licensed bartenders. “A great way to save money at an event is to be able to provide your own beverages, as opposed to buying them from the caterer or the venue,” he said. “Our staff can provide properly trained bar staff, so you can be confident that the drinks are served responsibly.” 

Pete and his wife Beth run the business full-time, and both have worked in the fine dining scene. Their staff boasts too many years of experience to count. At events, something is always bound to go wrong. Mr. Lapina described one event, about a dozen years ago, when a six-foot wedding cake was placed on a table whose legs had not been secured. The table collapsed, and a server from BTA dove in to keep the cake from hitting the floor. All the plates shattered, but the cake was rescued. Now, securing the table legs is always on the checklist. “We’ve already done everything wrong once,” Mr. Lapina joked. “So now we know how to avoid those mistakes.” 

A sense of humor is an important part of the company’s atmosphere. Pete Lapina and Beth operate Black Tie Affair out of their home in Chattanooga. Mr. Lapina finished his duty at the Marine Corps in 1984, then enrolled at UTC. He earned his degree in Business Administration: Management while working at the Walden Club. Black Tie Affair provides staffing for all types and sizes of events, seven days a week. 

Baker Donelson's Health Law Group Earns Multiple Top Ten Rankings

The Health Law Department at Baker Donelson has earned several honors recognizing the group as one of the leading health care practices in the United States. Baker Donelson was ranked seventh on the American Health Lawyers Association's "Top Honors 2014" list of health law firms in the United States; earned a spot in the top ten of Modern Healthcare's "Largest Healthcare Law ... (click for more)

PA Group USA Named To Accounting Today’s VAR 100 List For 2014

PA Group USA has been named by Accounting Today as one of the top 100 Value Added Resellers (VARs) of accounting and ERP software in North America. Accounting Today’s annual report acknowledges resellers of accounting and ERP software who set the standard for quality of service and ability to deliver valuable solutions, and then ranks them based on revenue. “The fact ... (click for more)

Federal Judge Stops Erlanger Foreclosure Of Hutcheson Hospital

In a ruling Friday, a Federal Court Judge in Rome agreed with Hutcheson Medical Center and Regions Bank to grant the request for an injunction, effectively stopping the foreclosure efforts of Erlanger Health System against Hutcheson. In stopping the foreclosure set for next Tuesday, the judge held that the public interest in keeping the hospital doors open was “insurmountable.”  ... (click for more)

Mediated Resolution Reached In TVA Kingston Lawsuits

A mediated global resolution has been achieved in 63 lawsuits pending in U.S. District Court involving more than 850 plaintiffs asserting claims against the Tennessee Valley Authority arising from the 2008 ash spill at Kingston Fossil Plant. The resolution, outlined in documents submitted Friday to the U.S. District Court in Knoxville, comes after nearly two years of ... (click for more)

A Tennessee Transplant's Thoughts On Age And Politics - And Response

I have read several opinions favoring the job performance of Representative Fleischmann as well the apparent disdain that they have for his challenger and his age.  I must disclose that unfortunately, I am unable to cast a vote in the 3rd District Republican primary.  I will however always be a Chattanoogan.  As a result, I feel more engaged in East Tennessee politics ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Orchids And Onions

With record low temperatures being recorded around the South, I didn’t know what I’d find in my garden on the first day of August but – sure enough -- there is a profusion of orchids and onions. The start of college football will be later this month and, with the chilly mornings, fall practice is a far cry from what it will be when the sweltering heat comes back next week. Here’s ... (click for more)