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Posted on Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Thanksgiving Eve: The biggest bar night of the year?

By Lizzy Alfs


Conor O'Neills in downtown Ann Arbor experiences a sales bump on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.

People aren’t dressing up in costume or toasting the good ol' Saint Patrick, but Thanksgiving Eve has its own reputation among bar owners.

For years, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving has been coined the “biggest bar night of the year.”

While sales increases on football Saturdays and other holidays win out over Thanksgiving Eve for many Ann Arbor area bars, the Wednesday night before the holiday still means big business.

“Compared to our normal Wednesday nights, we will have triple the business,” said Christian Jurado, bar manager at downtown Ann Arbor’s Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery.

“It’s going to be a very, very busy Wednesday night,” he continued.

New Year’s Eve, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day have garnered reputations as big bar nights, but Thanksgiving Eve seems to be just as popular. And for good reason: most people have Thanksgiving Day off work, and many people have family visiting or college kids home from school.


Thanksgiving Eve is a popular bar night, since many people are visiting family and don't have work the next day.

File photo |

“People just seem to be celebrating because they don’t have to work the next day,” said Tony Bonino, general manager of Sports Bar at Banfield’s Westside. Thanksgiving Eve is also prime time for friend or family reunions, added Conor O’Neill’s general manager Caroline Kaganov.

“We get all age groups (on Thanksgiving Eve). It’s like three generations of family, so it’s a really nice group of people we get,” she said.

Kaganov said the crowd in the downtown Ann Arbor bar is mostly townies and people who are from Ann Arbor but have since moved away.

“It’s a nice community kind of night,” she said. “Although a lot of the students go home elsewhere, it’s a very nice atmosphere because we get a lot of people who are coming home to Ann Arbor.”

At Damon’s Grill on Boardwalk Avenue, Thanksgiving Eve is a day to attract customers by giving back to them. Manager Rick Morawa said the restaurant is running a buy-one-get-one-free deal on its food all day.

“It’s a very big bar night for us, but we’re also doing Guest Appreciation Day,” he said. “It’s a way to give thanks to Ann Arbor right before Thanksgiving.”

Morawa said because Ann Arbor is a college town, Thanksgiving Eve doesn’t pack the same punch here as it does in Royal Oak or Birmingham, but it’s still a steady business night — especially for a Wednesday.

“Royal Oak is wall-to-wall people,” he said. “I imagine, downtown Ann Arbor with all the students leaving, it might not be as big out here in a college town as it would be in Royal Oak or Birmingham.”

Although this will be the first Thanksgiving Eve for the newly opened Lena and Cafe Habana in downtown Ann Arbor, general manager John Sleamon is expecting crowds. To prepare, he has staffed extra employees and hired a DJ for entertainment.

But if you do plan to hit the bars on Thanksgiving Eve, be sure to have a designated driver or take cabs. Impaired driving arrests skyrocket during the holiday time, and violations could jump 54 percent on Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a safety measure, Washtenaw County law enforcement officers are planning increased traffic enforcement Nov. 21 through Nov. 25, according to the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office.

Here's a roundup of some of the happenings at Ann Arbor area bars and nightclubs on Thanksgiving eve.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

I know....let's turn this into an new super-hyped (by, of course) , annual event where we endure weeks of lead up stories before people line up the night before and sleep in tents awaiting the opening of their favorite bar. call it something like: Wild Turkey Night.


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

Biggest bar night (a.k.a biggest amateur night).

music to my ear

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

I always worry because my adult children are driving home from work


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 7:59 p.m.

An American Holiday. Why the feature photo of an Irish Pub?

music to my ear

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

I belive the pilgrims were Irish.Didnt they bring the potato to the feast.


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

There are currently 24 cab companies operating in the city of Ann Arbor. If you plan on drinking tonight, please, for the sake of your own safety and for others, utilize those services


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

Christian Jurado is a sexy beast.

Josh Thiele

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

Nothing like a slight hangover to make the Thanksgiving meal just a bit tastier.


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 9:54 p.m.

Josh, I wonder how many people will be so hung over that the aroma of roasting turkey induces nausea?........


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

wow, thanks for the heads-up, Lizzy. I plan to be home and in my pj's well before the drunk drivers hit the road.....

music to my ear

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

so lizzy try to buy a few things so it wont be all work (have a little fun) when I see you at macys I ll turn my head ,I wont tell the boss.

Lizzy Alfs

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

Haha, me too probably. Mostly because I'll be working tomorrow covering Black Friday!


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

Don't have espn2.. and Michigan plays at 9:30... so yeah, I'll DEFINITELY be out. GO BLUE.


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Will be out for sure.