A safe mixture of caution and excitement surround New Year’s Eve each year, and this year’s transition into the next is no different.
Historically, New Year’s Eve has become one the biggest nights of the year to celebrate and party, but with that level of celebration, local law enforcement officials say, comes the responsibility of doing so in a safe manner.
There will be an increased police presence, from downtown Johnson City to the outer parts of Washington County. The state will have its annual “no refusal” trooper and police checkpoints throughout the roads and highways, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office will have increased traffic patrols, said Washington County Lt. Ed Graybeal.
“People need to be responsible when they’re having fun,” Graybeal said. “They need to know if they get behind the wheel after drinking, they’re probably going to jail.”
Graybeal said he’s noticed that the amount of drinking-while-driving numbers have improved over the years, but that New Year’s Eve is an extra busy night in regards to the amount of arrests as compared with other nights of the year.
The Johnson City police will follow the crowds, said Major Karl Turner. They will have an slightly increased presence, but won’t necessarily be only in the downtown area. Officers will be at which ever bars have great numbers.
Turner said the JCP is working with a grant through the Governor’s Highway Safety Office to aid with the troopers in conducting local checkpoints, too.
Both law enforcement entities both agreed that having a designated driver is the easiest way to avoid trouble. There are options available for those who want to drink and have others drive them. Beverage company Anheuser-Busch and insurance provider AAA will offer their Tow to Go program for New Year’s Eve weekend, which they claim has kept 22,000 intoxicated drivers from the road since 1998.
Tow to Go is intended to be a last resort for drinkers, and is set to discourage intoxicated drivers from getting behind the wheel of a car, regardless if they’re a AAA member or not. It will run through the first of the year, and provides tow truck rides to those in need.
Like law enforcement, local taxi services will also be out in increased presence. Trinity Taxi in Johnson City will have their busiest night of the year.
You’d think the busiest night of the would be stressful on the taxi drivers, but 25-year-old taxi driving veteran Carl Whitson said drivers are fighting over the opportunity to drive. He said getting drive that night is much like a reward.
“It helps the pocket for drivers,” Whitson said. “It’s like a dream come true.”
He said everyone takes cabs instead of driving, saying it’s the right thing to do, and that benefits the drivers. By his estimation, about 90% of passengers want a ride to the bars, with only a few wanting a ride to house parties.
For those looking to celebrate responsibly, most bars will have some kind of attraction or draw. The Battery, owned by Jason Vanover, who also acts as the executive chef, will have a special VIP section New Year’s Eve. For $100, Vanover said customers can get exclusive seating at their own table, which includes a bottle of champagne and a special menu of food, and the list of the perks is still growing.
Their food is a big draw for the restaurant and bar, he said. Known for their food, their Sunday brunch has been growing in popularity, he said.
When the night’s over, Vandover said they’ll have cabs lined up for people to get home safely.
Many will stay at home and mix their own drinks, said One Stop Liquors and Wines owner Phil Scharfstein, and for that he has recommendations to include some carbonated alcohol on the occasion.
Scharfstein said he’s a lover of champagnes and sparkling wines, and has been trying to spike the interest of his customers toward the variety by offering sweeter options. He said in an area where sweet tea is so popular, people have a sweet tooth, and this has led to the emergence of moscato-like sparkling wines.
For the more traditional champagne drinkers, Scharfstein said a rather dry brut can be mixed with something sweeter for a New Year’s or celebratory toasting event, if that’s their desire. In his personal champagne bar at home, he offers a dry brut with mixing options including peach, or other flavors of schnapps, amaretto, or plain orange juice for mixers with the bubbly.
Many of the bright-colored schnapps, he said, will add a neon glow to the champagne, which is a perfect compliment to the flashy, celebratory occasion.
His liquor store will have its busiest day of the year on New Year’s eve and he’s excited for the occasion, but he, like all other interviewed, stressed people behaving responsibly while drinking.