Kyle Redmond likes to socialize around the holidays, so he made his way Wednesday to Charlie’s Bar & Restaurant in Somers Point with his girlfriend and two best friends, all Ocean City High School graduates.
“It’s wintertime. It gets dark. You don’t want to sit in your apartment and be all alone. It’s the holidays. You want to see familiar faces, to spend time with family but with friends, also. It’s good to get out,” said Redmond, a 26-year-old Somers Point native.
Traditionally, when students leave the area to attend college, Thanksgiving Eve serves as the first opportunity for them to come back and see their old friends.
But the custom of heading out to a bar or restaurant to toast the start of the holiday season isn’t just for college-age students.
Morgan Mulloy, 24, of Egg Harbor Township, said her dad and his friends always went out on Thanksgiving Eve, so she grew up thinking that’s just what people do.
Mulloy was at Charlie’s with Ashley Fusaro, 30, also of Egg Harbor Township, who grew up one street over from her.
“You go tonight (Wednesday) because you don’t have to go to work tomorrow, and we have to be with our families tomorrow, so, you might as well enjoy it before you get questioned,” said Mulloy, laughing. “Not that we don’t love them. You don’t want to answer all the ‘Why aren’t you married yet? Where are your babies?’ questions.”
In the western part of Atlantic County, patrons of Hammonton’s Annata Wine Bar on Bellevue Avenue filled the venue by 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Most seemed to be there for the same reason.
“You get to see friends from your hometown if you don’t live here anymore,” said Alexis Jones, 25, of Hammonton. “Everybody comes out.”
This sentiment did not just apply to the younger generation.
“It’s fun to visit people again and see familiar faces,” said Paula Carrelli, 54, of Hammonton. “Hammonton is your extended family.”
Carrelli added that earlier that night, she reunited with a friend, who currently lives in Pennsylvania, for the first time in eight years.
Annata is one of the stops in a circuit of drinking establishments people visit on Thanksgiving Eve, particularly graduates from Saint Joseph and Hammonton high schools.
“On a typical Wednesday night, we may have 50 people or so,” said Annata’s Jackie Dolan. “We will probably have a couple of hundred people come here throughout the course of the night.”
Annata usually sells the equivalent of one case of beer during a fall Wednesday night. On Thanksgiving Eve, they will sell multiple cases, Dolan said.
For as long as owner Lynn McIntyre can remember, Yesterday’s Restaurant Bar & Liquor Store on Roosevelt Boulevard in Marmora has served as a gathering place for Ocean City High School graduates on Thanksgiving Eve.
McIntyre, a 1976 Ocean City High graduate, said Yesterday’s probably turned into a meeting place for Ocean City graduates because of its location between Ocean City and Upper Township, where the high school draws its students.
Between Wednesday evening and 2 a.m. Thursday, when the doors close, 500 people may pass in and out of Yesterday’s, McIntyre said.
Yesterday’s employed at least 30 people Wednesday, as if it were a Saturday during the summer, McIntyre said. It is the only day of the year a doorman is hired for each of their two doors to check identifications.
“Everybody goes home for Thanksgiving,” McIntyre said.