Area celebrations tend to be festive, but more low key than bar scene
In a season of non-stop celebrations, New Year’s Eve festivities are often seen as the ultimate wing-ding.
Bars in the area expect standing-room-only crowds on New Year’s Eve.
The celebratory nature of many of those gatherings is reflected in the offering of free taxi rides for the party crowd from 9 p.m. Wednesday to 4 a.m. Thursday.
That life-saving service offered by Ozaukee County is underwritten by Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee Hospital, Miller Brewing Co. and Beer Capital Distributing.
In Port Washington, the bars and restaurants are also offering a free bus service from 7:30 p.m. Wednesday until 4 a.m. Thursday. Those rides are sponsored by Budweiser.
However, most dining spots in Ozaukee County take a more reserved approach to the changing of the calendar.
Port Hotel Restaurant and Inn, 101 E. Main St., Port Washington, is planning a gala celebration, but in keeping with its fine-dining image.
“We are planning a really nice, relaxing night for our customers,” owner Joe Zunkel said.
“There are going to be some special menu items, including Maine lobster and bacon-wrapped tenderloin filet stuffed with Boursin cheese. People rave about that filet.”
Live piano music will be provided by Maranda Kaufman.
Dinner service will give way to a dessert buffet from 10:30 p.m. until midnight.
“That’s something we wanted to do, offering our customers some delicious dessert and a little coffee before they head off on the highway. We value our customers too much to take any chances with them, considering the drunk driving laws and the risks drunken driving pose,” Zunkel said.
Those who stick around to ring in the New Year will have their names entered into a drawing for a guest room in the hotel that night, along with New Year’s brunch for two.
“We like to think of it as a suitcase party. Pack your suitcase in case you win the drawing,” Zunkel said.
“All of our rooms are booked for the night, but we kept one room open for the drawing.”
On days like New Year’s Eve, he said, the restaurant staff can see how devoted customers are.
One year, Zunkel said, the staff served 605 people looking to add that special touch to their holiday celebration.
“It is a packed house, but it is never so crowded that people will keep bumping into you, spilling your drink. People are just in a friendly, festive mood,” he said.
“After we stop serving dinners, it is a lot more relaxed with everyone having time to sit back and reflect on the good things that happened during the past year. There is so much negative going on in the world, it is important to reflect on all the blessings we have, too.”
The Firehouse Restaurant in Saukville is looking at the holiday as a way to showcase its special menu items — including lobster, salmon, prime rib, tenderloin, pasta Rosa with chicken and shrimp scampi — from 3 to 9 p.m.
“We expect to do a pretty good business that evening. It is a chance to offer our customers our best dishes and wish them a happy new year,” owner Jim Keller said.
A similar low-key celebration will be the rule at No No’s Restaurant in Newburg.
“We like to add some special touches to our New Year’s menu, like prime rib, seared champagne scallops and beef burgundy, but don’t really serve meals that late,” said owner “No No” McGaw.
“We serve from 4 p.m. until whenever, but most of our customers — who tend to be older — don’t like to be out too late. They like to have their dinner and go home, and maybe play cards or visit with friends.”
McGaw, who has owned the restaurant for 28 years, said she identifies with her regulars.
“I am the kind of person who likes to go to bed early. I don’t think I have seen midnight on New Year’s Eve for years,” she said.
Such a subdued approach will not be the rule at Tello’s Grille & Cafe, 200 W. Grand Ave., Port Washington, largely because it will be a double celebration.
“We are holding our 8th anniversary party on New Year’s Eve,” owner Angel Tello said.
Restaurant customers will give way to bar patrons as the evening wears on. Free hors d’oeuvres and cake will be served at 10 p.m. Party favors and champagne will follow at midnight.
“The fun will continue through the Tournament of Roses Parade and the football games. Everyone is expecting to have a good time,” Tello said.
Bic’s Place in Belgium also plans to give customers a reason to come out on New Year’s Eve, offering discounted appetizer and entree packages for couples and drink specials until midnight.