Sorokko denies Friedman made the remark.
“That is not accurate,” she said in an e-mail. “Gary and everyone from the team was concerned about having a safe and comfortable event.”
The party started at 6:30 p.m. and within 20 minutes the first floor was so crowded guests could barely move in any direction. People were entering through doors on Berkeley and Newbury streets, while others bypassed the long lines outside and were led in through the catering entrance. Hemmed in, helpless servers held aloft trays of purple artichoke and green garlic risotto, port-soaked figs with goat cheese on flatbread crisps, and mini lobster rolls. Cipriani Bellini cocktails served in champagne glasses would appear and immediately be grabbed by grumbling and bewildered guests.
“I thought I was at the seafood show and this was the sardine can exhibit,” said Charles Hotel owner Dick Friedman.
“This will go down as one of the all-time worst planned events in Boston party history,” Janet Prensky, a partner at the Boston PR firm Aigner/Prensky Marketing Group, tweeted the night of the party.
By 7:30 p.m., police and fire officials were on the scene shooing people from the doors and ordering the store to pull the plug on the music and cease food and drink service.
“It was a happening event. There were a lot of people obviously very interested in the store and the location, and that’s a good thing,” said Thomas DeSimone, a partner in W.S. Development, one of the building’s owners. “But if one person doesn’t have the kind of experience we hoped they’d have, that’s unfortunate. And in this case, it was maybe more than one person.”
Rafanelli, who has produced events vastly more complex than the opening of a furniture store, declined to be interviewed. “We do not comment regarding our clients’ business matters,” he said in an e-mail. But people who work with Rafanelli say he’s disappointed with the way the event was handled. Joyce Kulhawik, the former TV reporter who’s something of a fixture on Boston’s social circuit, was on the party’s host committee. She arrived early with Marilyn Riseman and found a cozy seat on one of RH’s expensive couches. Her husband was not so lucky.
“He never made it inside. When he got to the door, [the police] told him, ‘This party is over,’ ” she said, laughing. “You might not deliberately plan to do a party that way, but at least everyone’s talking about Restoration Hardware.”
And it’s not even open.