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- The night before Thanksgiving is a monster night for the bar industry.
- Some refer to it as “Black Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving.”
- Uber expects a surge in business and has been advertising in bars.
Phillip Sharp has worked at Two Doors Down, a bar in Maryville, Tennessee, for nine years. This Wednesday, the bar will have extra security on hand.
Not because Two Doors is expecting any trouble. More to help the tavern’s wait staff traverse the expected throngs.
That’s because Wednesday is the night before Thanksgiving, one of the biggest bar nights of the year.
“People always talk about New Year’s Eve,” said Sharp. “It isn’t that big compared to that Wednesday. For us, it’s all hands on deck.”
The same can be said for many bars across the US as they brace for Thanksgiving eve, increasingly one of the top drinking holidays on the calendar, up there with St. Patrick’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday, and July Fourth. It’s even taken on underground-legend status in some locales.
An unofficial holiday with many names
A Chicago bar manager told Business Insider the day is commonly known as “Black Wednesday” – a la Black Friday. Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported that extra police were on hand for that night in suburban Chicago neighborhoods like Naperville.
It’s easy to understand why Black Wednesday is a big night for bars. The majority of Americans have the day off on Thanksgiving. Many return to their hometowns to visit families – and for college students it’s often the first time they’re back in town since leaving for campus. The temptation to see old friends, or one’s ex, is high.
- Reuters/Yves Herman
“A lot of people are staying at their parents house for the weekend,” said Kevin Culhane, an owner at Churchill’s, a bar in Rockville Centre, New York. “So they go out to see people they graduated high school with. The whole village is hopping.”
Plus, unless you are cooking the next day, the next day centers on sitting around and overeating – just the right way to recover from a night out.
Still, it’s hard to get a reliable source on how big a business surge Black Wednesday delivers for bars, other than anecdotes. Business Insider reached out to restaurant-industry analysts and tavern associations, but none tracked the collective industry revenue value for the night.
According to Upserve, which pulled sales data directly from 2,800 restaurants across the U.S., in 2016 restaurants saw a 23% surge in overall sales on Black Wednesday compared to the previous Wednesday, and beer sales surged by 270% over the same period.
Matt Giunta, who works for the Anheuser-Busch distributor Clare Rose, said the night is known as “the holiday before the holiday for the beverage industry.”
“It’s by far the biggest night of the year for us as far back as I know,” said Timothy Murray, who runs Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall in Wantagh, New York. Murrays’ father has owned Mulcahy’s since the 1980s.
“It’s definitely a long night, and everyone who works here works that night,” said Murray. “But it’s a lot of fun. The beauty of it is, you don’t have to promote it. You just open the door.”
Murray said that typically translates to a strong weekend overall, since once Thanksgiving wraps up, “Everyone’s sick of their families, or they go out with cousins and uncles.”
Going back to where everybody knows your name
Black Wednesday seems to be more of a suburban phenomenon than urban. Shane Smyth, who owns two bars in the Boston area, said the one located in the city’s financial district is typically pretty dead on Thanksgiving eve, while Hugh O’Neill’s in the suburb Malden, is jumping.
Smyth estimates that on that night – which he calls “Thanksgiving ‘Eve Homecoming Party” – business is up 400% versus the average Wednesday. “We hit capacity pretty early in the night,” he said. The evening is even bigger than St. Patrick’s Day, which is saying something in Massachusetts.
Because of its suburban foothold, Black Wednesday has become one of the biggest nights of the year for Uber. The company is offering free rides on Long Island to help discourage drunk driving, reported Newsday.
Uber has also been running ads on its app in cities like Denver, New York and San Francisco driving people to the Uber blog to check out local bars to celebrate that night: Where Denver Uber riders celebrate the day before Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, at Two Doors Down in Maryville, Tennessee, Black Wednesday typically starts off slow. “Then a 10:30 or 11 o’clock all of a sudden we’re slammed,” said Sharp.
This year, the bar is also featuring karaoke.
“We kind of run the gamut that night, from 21-year-olds to 70. So you might see the typical drunk uncle in town singing George Strait.”