With so many popular New Year’s Eve activities canceled or closed this year, restaurants became more of a focal point than ever for some holiday revelers.
In town from San Diego, Joe, Linda, Natalie and Tucker Davis opted for a sunset meal at the Strat’s rotating Top of the World.
“My momma wants to party, and I want to party,” Tucker said of their mood, as Linda and Natalie donned their celebratory 2021 eyeglasses in the midst of their meal.
“After this horrible 2020, we’re so ready to celebrate 2021,” his mother, Linda, confirmed.
Unlike some casinos, which limited New Year’s Eve seating in their restaurants to hotel guests only, all of The Strat’s eateries were open to the public on Thursday.
“The main reason we’re not limiting it just to hotel guests is that we really have become a locals’ destination during COVID,” explained the resort’s vice president of food and beverage, Zoey D’Arienzo. “Our support from the community has been incredible, so we wanted to make sure we could give those people a New Year’s experience.”
D’Arienzo estimates about 80 percent of their New Year’s Eve restaurant reservations were for locals.
Things were a little quieter in The Arts District during the 6:00 hour. At the recently opened Good Pie pizzeria on Main Street, which hasn’t yet opened its indoor dining room, a handful of customers enjoyed slices on the outdoor patio. Kim and Becca Winfield, of North Las Vegas, were among them.
“We wanted to come down and see what’s happening, but we didn’t want to be around too many people when it got crazy out,” explained Kim Winfield.
Good Pie manager Gene Samuel said the majority of their business for the night had been takeout.
“Business is slammed,” he said. “The average (order) is five pies tonight.”
Around the corner, at Garagiste Wine Room, master sommelier Justin Moore reported a similar trend of takeout sales outpacing in-house orders.
“I’ve been selling so much wine to go,” he said, pointing to customers leaving with a case.
At his bar, locals Ally and Carolyn, who opted not to give their last names, enjoyed a quick glass before taking their to-go orders.
“This is the start of the night,” Carolyn said. “We’re bringing wine home.”
“We’re just going to get drunk in the house instead of drunk in a bar,” Ally added, when asked how this New Year’s Eve would be different from previous years.
Across the street, however, Esther’s Kitchen was filled to its COVID-mandated 25 percent capacity.
“We sold out about a week and a half ago,” said James Trees, the restaurant’s chef and owner.
The scene in the Desert Shores community was a touch more elegant and refined than the one downtown, with guests dressed to the nines at Marche Bacchus and neighboring Americana.
“This is our real celebration, and then a little bit of a home party,” Jesse Neely said, as he dined with Taylor DeRose, overlooking the manmade Lake Jacqueline. “Every other year I’m usually in some hotel, either in the Strip or downtown. So this year is way more quiet.”
For others, however, this New Year’s Eve wasn’t that much different from previous ones.
“We call this our home restaurant,” Eric Shalita said at Marche Bacchus, as Raiding The Rock Vault star Paul Shortino prepared to take to a makeshift “stage” area for a uncharacteristically intimate performance in the French restaurant.
“They treat us like family, and it is absolutely our favorite restaurant in the valley.”
“It’s become a tradition for New Year’s,” his wife, Karen, added. “We’ve been here just about every year.”
Marche Bacchus owner Rhonda Wyatt promised a party to compete with previous years, with Shortino and his band playing until at least midnight.
“We’re ringing in midnight,” Wyatt said. “And who knows after that.”