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Warren Butler Embarks on Quest to Become Santa Barbara’s ‘Event Guy’

Restaurant and hospitality veteran turns skills to full-service event assistance

Restaurant and hospitality veteran Warren Butler is expanding his holdings and offerings in hopes of becoming the Santa Barbara area’s undisputed ‘event guy.’
Restaurant and hospitality veteran Warren Butler is expanding his holdings and offerings in hopes of becoming the Santa Barbara area’s undisputed ‘event guy.’ (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Warren Butler had been toying with the idea of expanding his event-services business in early 2015 when a pending demolition forced his hand.

Butler Event Center at 3488 State St. in Santa Barbara would close in March, new owners of the adjacent Sandman Inn said, since they were moving up the schedule to tear down the hotel and center to build condos and office space.

Butler, a 30-year veteran of the restaurant and hospitality industries, scrambled to find new venues, and was so successful he came up with two: the old Café del Sol building at 30 Los Patos Way in Montecito and the long-vacant Sizzler Restaurant at 5555 Hollister Ave. in Old Town Goleta.

He couldn’t choose, so now Butler Event Services leases both.

Last month, Butler also scooped up 731-A De la Guerra Plaza, formerly Killer B’s BBQ and Tony Ray’s, dubbing it Warren B’s. 

The outside observer might think Butler is snatching up property at will. But it’s all part of the plan for Butler, who’s embarking on a path to become Santa Barbara’s “Event Guy.”

The Boston native who bought Marketing Express in January 2015 hopes to encompass Butler Event Services under his Butler Productions.

He’s developed the brand over the years as executive producer of “What’s Cooking with Arthur von Wiesenberger” on KEYT Channel 3 — a show that aims to promote local restaurant chefs.

That’s what Butler wants to do with his one-stop shop event services business, too.

“How often do you throw a party and people don’t know the top people in town?” he said. “There’s always an occasion to have a party.”

Butler, soon-to-be outgoing president of the Greater Santa Barbara Lodging & Restaurant Association (now called Hospitality Santa Barbara), has a list of caterers, exclusive venues, DJs, florists, musicians and hands-on event planners he’s ready to recommend — a list he’d like to add more partners to.

He’s even got chocolate fountain and photo booth people, not to mention three venues on the ready for anniversaries, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, weddings and more.

“They all start with a venue,” Butler said. “I gave people a way to do it that’s a little bit more affordable and flexible. I’ve kind of been there, done that.”

Butler began acquiring his Santa Barbara knowledge when he moved here in 2007 to open the now-closed Stateside Restaurant & Lounge and as managing partner of Marmalade Restaurant.

He’s also on a number of nonprofit boards in town, including the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.

He brought years of experience throwing events and opening restaurants around the country, more recently in Los Angeles and Hollywood for celebrities including actor Will Smith and record producer Dr. Dre.

Running three event centers is challenging, Butler said, but at least he can shut off the lights and close up when it’s not in use, unlike a restaurant.

He says his venues with historical community value aren’t just for parties. Salsa classes pop up every Thursday at the Goleta Butler Event Center (his largest venue), Weight Watchers regularly uses the Montecito Event Center, and the Boys & Girls Club signs on to use space for monthly meetings.

“It’s exciting to have events in there,” Butler said. “The idea is to create this service where everybody benefits.”

He hopes to one day acquire a venue that could hold at least 300 people, believing that the more options people have, the more often they’ll stop to celebrate.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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