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Let the NYE panic begin

November 16, 2011|By Emily Van Zandt | RedEye

Last week, a friend of mine finally asked THE QUESTION. The one I dread every year.

“What do you want to do for New Year’s?”

Gulp. New Year’s Eve is terrifying. Even six weeks away, the prospect of what is undoubtedly the biggest amateur night in all of bardom makes me queasy.

What do I want to do for New Year’s? Well, obviously I want to leave my house completely underdressed for the weather and pay $80 cover to go to a bar I’d never step in any other night where I’ll stand in line for 30 minutes to get two bottled beers and one vodka cranberry before the open bar closes.

And then I want to not realize it’s midnight until I feel champagne being dumped on my head by a drunk guy who is wearing his party fedora. Ultimately, I’d like to end the evening walking home after waiting 45 minutes for a cab.

OK, so maybe New Year’s Eve isn’t always that awful. But it can feel pretty close. In Chicago, New Year’s Eve can seem like a total “go big or go home” situation. You’re either going to be dropping cash for a crowded bar party or prix fixe dinner, or you’re going to be getting kicked out of a BYOB after an hour (gotta keep those tables moving) and counting down to 2012 at home. And if you’re not already out by 10:30 p.m., forget it.

I’ve rung in the past three years in Chicago establishments, celebrating at over-priced bar parties, friend’s houses and small neighborhood spots. No matter where you go, New Year’s Eve ends up being a gamble. Your favorite low-key spot can become the most crowded place on the block. The sure-thing party to which you bought advance tickets could be filled with the worst people you went to high school with. Even a house party can end up being a disaster if the booze runs out and no one can get a cab home.

So, what to do? Say it with me now: Lower your expectations.

It’s that simple. New Year’s Eve isn’t the only party night of the year. It doesn’t have to be perfect. All it has to be is fun. And whatever your definition of fun is, that’s what you should be doing. Don’t opt for a bottle-service only spot when you’re the sports bar type. And don’t avoid your favorite club just because you don’t know what the crowd will be. Pick a place you’re familiar with, surround yourself with friends you can rely on and you’ll do just fine. Well, except when it comes to that cab ride home—really, we’re all sunk.

Emily Van Zandt is a RedEye reporter. “Lower your expectations” has been her personal mantra for years. evanzandt@tribune.com, @mmxbars

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