Chicagoans may be serving up a side of aspirin with their holiday meals Thursday night, judging by the number of Black Wednesday parties happening across the city.
Call it a Chicago tradition.
Dozens of spots will be dishing out drink specials and deals to entice students and old friends to toss back a few beers before family commitments the next day. The menu for the evening includes everything from events such as the hip-hop show at Reggies in the South Loop to deals like the 50 percent off "Stranded Student" discount at Jack's Bar and Grill in Lakeview to specials like $5-PBR-and-a-whiskey-shot at Porkchop in the West Loop. Bars and restaurants are looking to do whatever they can to accommodate Black Wednesday partiers on what has been an unofficial drinking holiday in the city for years.
"Everybody knows they have the next day off and everyone is in that festive mindset—all they have to do the next day is eat," said Mark Domitrovich, owner of the Pioneer Tavern Group, which is hosting a Black Wednesday Trolley Crawl between bars The Pony, Lotties Pub and Frontier. Like many events happening Wednesday, there's also a tie-in to a Blackhawks viewing party this year since the team is playing at 9:30 p.m.
But while the night tends to draw crowds, it's not always the group you want to see.
"One time I went out with my sister to this bar in Schaumburg and it was a weird mash of [high school classmates] trying not to make eye contact with each other," said Andrea Cordts, 27, of Lakeview. "It would be different if you … wanted to meet up with [good friends] for a reunion, but I think you have to plan it if you want it to go right."
So how big of a night is it? The crowd bump tends to be bigger for suburban bars than those in the city, according to Humberto Martinez, owner of Timothy O'Toole's. But city bars that throw events tend to see a crowd on Black Wednesday typical of a good Friday or Saturday night.
"Huge crowds everywhere," says Gailin Kristofek, events coordinator for the Chicago Sport and Social Club, which is hosting its annual Black Wednesday party at Deuce's and the Diamond Club in Wrigleyville. The club expects more than 300 people to show up for the event (larger than its typical bar parties, but smaller than Halloween or New Year's Eve turnouts), which is free.
"Not as crazy as Halloween, but it's the same energy with a lot of people."
"It's a good Wednesday—we plan for it to look and seem more like a Friday, like a good weekend crowd," said Mike Jettner, director of operations for John Barleycorn and Moe's Cantina. "New Year's Eve is completely different because it's an event and on Halloween people get dolled up in their costumes—[Black Wednesday] is like a good weekend bar night, but during the week."
For Tim Sarrantonio, 29, of Rogers Park, going out on Black Wednesday started as another excuse to drink when he was in college. Now he uses it as a night with other holiday orphans who don't make it home for Thanksgiving. His group gathers at Friar Tuck in Lakeview, throwing back some traditional Wild Turkey shots.
Put it this way, Sarrantonio said: "Thanksgiving is for families, Black Friday is for shoppers…might as well give the drinkers hump day." firstname.lastname@example.org | @mmxbars