LEWISTON — For bars across the country, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest — and booziest — of the year. Local bars are prepping for one seriously busy night.

Daniel Howaniec has been a bartender at the Blue Goose Tavern in Lewiston since the mid-1980s, and he has served six or seven of the nights, popularly dubbed Drinksgiving, or, more pejoratively, Blackout Wednesday.

He said most years, the line outside on Sabattus Street stretches back 30 or 40 feet, and is about 80 people long.

“It’s wall to wall from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. It’s very exciting,” Howaniec said. “We all look forward to it, both the customers and the work staff.”

Howaniec said the night usually kicks off at about 6 p.m., with many older folks and locals coming to imbibe. Then, the night really picks up at about 9 p.m., as college kids, home for the holiday, pack in, quickly snowballing into the busiest night of the year.

“We’ll probably get 300 to 500 people throughout the night, with people coming in and out,” Howaniec said.

Howaniec said the bar has been packed on the Wednesday night before Thanksgivings for as long as he has worked at the Blue Goose, and the night has become a Lewiston tradition, with generations of families packing into the Blue Goose, open since the end of Prohibition.

“It’s pretty much local kids who grew up around here,” he said. “Their parents came here. It’s generational, and it’s pretty much a tradition that’s been carried on forever.”

Planning for such a busy night can be a logistical challenge for the tavern.

Howaniec said the bar is stocked, since distributors will not be able to make deliveries Thursday and Friday. According to Howaniec, the order volume increases by 30 percent, and the bar staff works long and hard to make sure the night runs smoothly.

A doorman is posted at the front and back doors to check identification cards and help clear tables. Two bartenders work, and the music blasts louder than usual, to cut above the din of so many people. Beer, normally served from chilled glasses, is poured into red Solo cups.

“Once, back in the mid-90s, I was working a Wednesday night, and I stood up on the bar, shut the music off, and said, ‘OK, everyone, pass up all the empty pitcher and glasses.’ Everyone did it, and you could see all the pitchers and glasses being passed up. All of a sudden this bar was filled with dirty glasses.”

Howaniec said the bar needs to be stocked to keep up with the demands of the night.

“If we normally have three to four extra kegs, we’ll have 10 kegs in here of the popular brands,” he said. “It’s a holiday weekend, and it’s going to be busy all weekend.”

Jenna-Rae Brown, general manager of Gritty’s Brewpub in Auburn, said last year’s Wednesday night before Thanksgiving proved to be one of the busiest drinking nights of the year.

“I’m not sure how many people we had,” she said, “but I would say looking back on last year, we did about $8,000 in beer and liquor sales alone.”

On an average Wednesday, total sales, including food, are about $4,000, she said.

And with those numbers comes extra preparation.

“We order extra liquor, extra glassware, put on extra staff behind the bar, at the door carding, extra servers on the floor,” Brown said. “We staff up and stock up.”

Brown said most of the prepping happens Tuesday, before the revelers pile in.

Outside the Twin Cities, bars and pubs also feel the bump in traffic.

“It’s busier than a normal Wednesday night,” said Traci Austin, owner of Frank’s Pub in Lisbon Falls.

Unlike the bars in the Twin Cities, which are populated by a large influx of college kids, Frank’s sees a pretty even split of patrons.

“It’s a mix,” Austin said. “A lot of families come into town, and they’re going to spend all day [making] a large dinner, so they’ll come out, have appetizers and be social. “

“There’s a lot of food preparation going on at home, so it might be suggested ‘hey, why don’t you go out and meet your friends or go out with uncle whoever while they’re working at home to make the day great for Thanksgiving,” Austin said.

According to a Facebook post by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, more than 800 people nationally over the past five years died in drunken driving accidents during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Lt. David St. Pierre of the Lewiston Police Department said while he was not aware of a significant increase OUIs on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, the department is mindful of the increased attendance at bars and will enforce accordingly.

“Always use a designated driver, or take a cab or Uber,” St. Pierre said. “Drink responsibly and not to excess. Arrive alive!”

Staff Writer Kathryn Skelton contributed to this report. 

Justin Melanson of Valley Beverage delivers a keg of beer Tuesday to Frank’s Pub in Lisbon Falls. Pub owner Traci Austin said she expects the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving will be much busier than most Wednesdays. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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