Surviving Amateur Night
A sensible guide to celebrating the New Year
By R. V. Scheide
They don't call New Year's Eve "amateur night" for nothing. Last New Year's Eve, the California Highway Patrol busted eight Sonoma County drivers for operating vehicles under the influence; more than 100 were nabbed in the Bay Area, and a total of 534 were arrested throughout the state. The numbers in some cases were double the previous year, and this New Year's, the CHP and local sheriff and police departments will be out in force in an effort to deter drunk drivers, keep the numbers down, and protect the public.
In the North Bay, this presents the holiday reveler with a dilemma. The selection of nonalcoholic New Year's celebrations is pretty slim now that First Night--the ambitious, artistic, nonalcoholic downtown Santa Rosa celebration that's had trouble getting major sponsorship since its inception in 1995--has perhaps seen its last night. We've listed as many as we could find here in a special, nonalcoholic section that will have to do until First Night 2004, assuming the teetotaling to-do can find some major financial backers here in the heart of wine country.
In the meantime, we've developed a simple guideline to follow for those who wish to join the rest of the world in ushering in the New Year: celebrate globally, drink locally. With that in mind, we've tried to feature events that are not necessarily alcohol-focused, and we've listed them county by county, city by city, moving from north to south, so that potential holiday revelers will have no problem finding a party that's near enough to the crib to crawl home if necessary.
And boys and girls, it may be necessary.
A 120-pound woman who has more than two drinks--two glasses of wine, two beers, or two mixed drinks--in an hour is flirting with the .08 legal limit for blood alcohol content. Similarly, a 160-pound man who has more than three drinks in an hour is pushing the legal limit. A word from the wise to anyone who thinks it's OK to get behind the wheel in such a condition: waking up in jail Jan. 1 is not a great way to start the New Year. So take a tip from the Bohemian. Celebrate globally, drink locally. Walk to the party if possible, or use a designated driver. That's the best way to bring it on home safely and securely.
Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa. The beautiful thing about Konocti--besides the panoramic view of Clear Lake--is that, thanks to its distant location, you're pretty much forced to get a room for the night. With overnight packages for the resort's 14th annual New Year's extravaganza starting at $250 per couple, that'd be the smart thing to do, and the entertainment lineup offers something for everyone: live classic rock, country-western, blues, and big-band music. Add fine dining, four full-service bars, and complete spa and gym services to aid in the next morning's recovery, and what more do you need? Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. $250-$550 per couple. 800.660.5253.
Clos Pegase Winery. Presented entirely in "cave vision," Clos Pegase's "Fire and Ice" celebration features a wine reception, gourmet dinner and wine pairings, and music by Majestic Swing Band. The winery calls it the "best party in town," and no one we've talked to said anything different. 8pm. Clos Pegase Winery, 1060 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga. $175-$200. 707.942.4981, ext. 201.
1351 Lounge. If you have to drink--and let's face it, some of us do--it might as well be the best fresh-squeezed fruit cocktails in the universe, which are in abundance at 1351 Lounge. No doubt New Year's will provide cause to open the vault in this historic granite bank building. The Jake Richmond Band provide the musical backup for this year's theme, "Glamorous Hollywood." 9:30pm. 1351 Lounge, 1351 Main St., St. Helena. $30. 707.963.1969.
Napa Valley Opera House. Need something that's fun--and funny--for the whole family? "Four Standup Dads: New Year's Eve at the Napa Valley Opera House" is the ticket. Four comedians--Milt Abel, Tim Bedore, Dan St. Paul, and Kelly McDonald--poke a little PG-13 fun at family life. The Opera House cautions that the material might not be suitable for "the tattooed and pierced." Two shows, 7pm and 10pm. Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St., Napa. Tickets are $15, $30, and $40. 707.226.7372.
Napa Valley Wine Train. Don't even think about boarding the Napa Valley Wine Train if you don't have reservations at the Embassy Suites, the Napa Valley Marriott, the Napa River Inn, or some other Napa hotel that offers courtesy shuttle service. After a four-hour New Year's Eve ride on the train, chances are good that more than one person--you, perhaps--will be poured off the train. Featuring live music by the Jazz Project, gourmet cuisine by chef Kelly MacDonald, and the Napa Valley's finest wines, the Wine Train is a great way to drink in the New Year--and leave the driving to someone else. Check in at the Wine Train station 4:30pm. 1275 McKinstry St., Napa. $200-$225. 800.427.4124.
Di Rosa Preserve. Boasting one of the finest collections of contemporary art in the Bay Area, let alone the North Bay, the Di Rosa Preserve sparkles all on its own. Nevertheless, they're offering a sparkling wine reception for two special Sparkling Tours on New Year's Eve. Space is limited and reservations are required for the two-and-a-half-hour tours. 9:25am, 12:55pm. Di Rosa Preserve, 5200 Carneros Hwy., Napa. $15. 707.226.5991.
Chateau Souverain. Executive chef Martin Courtman is cooking up something special for New Year's Eve at Chateau Souverain. Rural elegance and the winery's premium vintages make this the perfect spot for an intimate night with close friends. Chateau Souverain, 400 Souverain Road, Geyserville. Call for time and price. 707.433.3141.
Hotel Healdsburg. It's no secret that Healdsburg is happening, and when it comes to partying in posh luxury, it's hard to beat the ultrarefined Hotel Healdsburg. Internationally acclaimed chef Charlie Parker's Dry Creek Kitchen, located inside the hotel, provides the sumptuous vittles; East Coast jazz legends the Craig Handy Quartet provide the esoteric sounds. Hangover fears? No problem. Stay the night and hit the spa in the morning. 7pm-1am. Hotel Healdsburg, 25 Matheson St., Healdsburg. No cover. 707.431.2800.
Healdsburg Bar and Grill. Go old-school with the classic rock sounds of the Remedies at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill. This place rocks, so be prepared to crawl home. 9:30pm-1:30am. 245 Healdsburg Ave. $10. 707.433.333.
Felix and Louie's. House is in the house as our favorite bar next door brings in a DJ for New Year's dancing. Pool and shuffleboard for the rhythm-impaired. Warning: the people here like to party! 9:30pm-1:30am. 106 Matheson St., Healdsburg. Free. 707.433.6966.
Main Street Station. Wanna hit four New Year's parties in one? Then Main Street Station's "Time Zone" celebration of four consecutive New Year's Eves (New York City, Chicago, Denver, and finally San Francisco), may be the best bet. Featuring the sassy Elena Welch and her jazz and blues combo, party favors, and champagne, it's four hours of nonstop fun, Russian River-style. Dinner available but not included in price. 7:30-11:30pm. Main Street Station, 16280 Main St., Guerneville. $10. 707.869.0501.
Fifes Guest Ranch. Three C-notes might seem like a lot for a couple to spend on a New Year's Eve excursion, but there's no doubt it's loads cheaper than getting a DUI on River Road. Throw in an extra night, a four-course dinner, live music, and a morning-after Champagne brunch, and we're talking bargain, mate. Fifes Guest Ranch, 164678 Hwy. 116, Guerneville. $299. 707.869.0656.
5AM's "Big Blue Ball." Feeling blue? Then the "Big Blue Ball" may be for you. Featuring free beer all night long from Lagunitas Brewing Co., blue jello shots, blue Hawaiians, and blue bombs (5AM's own drink creation), nonblue pizza, a costume contest (for whoever inspires the biggest blue balls), the good-time rock of Pat Jordan and 5AM's own "big rock thang," the "Big Blue Ball" is just the kind of event the men in blue like to wait outside of on New Year's Eve. Wear something blue and get a clue: take a frickin' cab or something. 8pm-onward. The Masonic Lodge, Seventh and Beaver streets, Santa Rosa. $20 (includes beer). Tickets are going fast! Order online at www.ticketleap.com.
Last Day Saloon. Like it or not, guys, a lot of girls seem to dig the music of the 1980s. No doubt many of them will be catching live '80s cover band Tainted Love at the Last Day Saloon this New Year's Eve. 9pm. 120 Fifth St., Santa Rosa. Tickets are $50 and $65. 707.545.2343.
Peace Rally Dance Concert. Norton Buffalo joins Love Choir and Tudo Bem for a celebration emphasizing the need for gathering peace energy in 2004. Drum circles, light shows, peace altars, labyrinth walk. 8pm-1am. Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St., Sebastopol. $35 advance; $40 door. Tickets available at www.seb.org.
Powerhouse Brewing Co. Of all the blues shows kicking it in the North Bay this New Year's Eve, none kicks harder than master bottleneck slide guitarist Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings at the Powerhouse. Rogers' Grammy award-winning guitar work slides down as easily as the Iron Horse Brut sparkling-wine toast at midnight. 10pm. Powerhouse Brewing Co., 268 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. $40. 707.829.9171.
The Other Side. According to its website, only women and a few gay men need apply to the Other Side's "evening of elegance and elevated night culture with ass-in-the-air and bootie-spankin' suerplicious grooves of master DJ Page Hodel and super DJ Monicka" at the Doubletree Hotel. We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Ballroom hip-hop dancing, finger-licking gourmet hors d'oeuvres, fantasy desserts, four full bars, and balloon drop with cash prizes. Best thing of all? Other Side guests stay at the Doubletree for just $65. Another sure sellout, so act quickly. 8:20pm-2am. Doubletree Hotel, 1 Red Lion Drive, Rohnert Park. $25 advance; $30 door. Tickets available at Milk and Honey in Sebastopol (707.824.1155), North Light Books in Cotati (707.792.4300), and Epiphany Musical Instruments in Santa Rosa (707.543.7008).
Cotati Cabaret. For one night only, the storied Cotati Cabaret returns with the Dave Nelson Band and special guests the Horse You Rode in On. Benefits the Jewish Free Medical Clinic. 7pm. Congregation Ner Shalom, 85 La Plaza, Cotati. $30 advance; $35 door. 707.792.2800.
Tradewinds. The Pulsators are one of Cotati's longest-lived and best-loved bands, and their performances at the Tradewinds have become a North Bay New Year's staple. 9pm. Tradewinds, 8210 Old Redwood Hwy., Cotati. $10. 707.795.7878.
Black Cat Bar and Cafe. No doubt a few new bras will be added to the collection as The Black Cat rocks into the New Year with all-girl supergroup Your Sister's Hot. Champagne, finger food, and live burlesque show in beautiful downtown Penngrove. 9pm. Black Cat Bar and Cafe, 10056 Main St. $10. 707.793.9480.
Cinnabar Theater. Ah! A respite from hoisting drinks in bars! Cinnabar's Quicksilver II Theater Company presents Laughin' at the Ritz, a zany, original cabaret-style musical farce featuring Liz Jahren, Laura Jorgensen, Eileen Morris, and Nancy Prebilich as four women holed up in New York's glitzy Ritz hotel on New Year's Eve. The Cinnabar Palm Court Ensemble provide live musical accompaniment to the singing, dancing, frolicsome foursome. Includes dinner, dessert, party favors, and champagne. 8:30pm. Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. $46 general; $44 seniors and students. 707.763.8920.
Mystic Theatre. Michael Jackson may be down, but the Wonderbread 5 keep on keeping on, simple as A-B-C. Everyone's favorite funk cover band are famed for their note-for-note perfect renditions of Jackson 5 hits, and no doubt the Mystic will be sizzling with that Motown magic. 9:45pm. McNear's Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. $55. 707.765.2121.
Zebulon's Lounge. Ah! A respite from hoisting drinks in theaters! The Casey Cameron Quartet, featuring NYC saxophonist Kenny Shanker, celebrate happy groove year at ultracool jazz club Zebulon's Lounge. Free hors d'oeuvres, champagne toast. 9pm-1am. Zebulon's Lounge, 21 Fourth St., Petaluma. $45 advance; $60 door. 707.769.7948.
Little Switzerland. And now for something completely different. Little Switzerland and the Al Gruber Band invite you to polka till you puke this New Year's Eve. No, not really, but down a few too many frosty lagers in those lederhosen, and that's exactly what you'll be doing. Dinner, party favors, midnight buffet. 6pm-12:30am. Little Switzerland, 401 Grove St., Sonoma. 707.993.9990.
Vaquero Restaurant. The aptly named (at least for New Year's Eve) chef Robert Champagne provides the California-ranch-style cooking and the Stacy Adams Band provide the music for a New Year's celebration that's bound to stick to your ribs. Vaquero Restaurant, 144 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 707.996.1440.
Murphy's Irish Pub. Blast off into 2004 with the hot licks of guitarist Andrew Freeman at Murphy's. No admission here. All that's asked is that you buy a couple of pints. If you're not staying in Sonoma, don't forget to pace yourself, especially if you're Irish (so says this half-Irish writer). 9pm. Murphy's Irish Pub, 464 First St., Sonoma. 707.935.0660.
Rancho Nicasio. The Zydeco Flames light up Rancho Nicasio with an eclectic style drawing upon Creole, Irish, French, German, American Indian, Spanish, and African influences. 8:30pm. Rancho Nicasio Town Square, Nicasio. $35-$45. 415.662.2219.
Pt. Reyes Station
Old Western Saloon. No one can blame you for thinking the Rolling Blackouts are something you might get from having one too many at the Old Western Saloon. Actually, they're a bad-ass rock band playing the New Year's gig at one of the coolest dives of all time. If you're coming from inland, well, you better plan on staying the night; it's just too much fun. 9pm-till you drop. Old Western Saloon, 11201 Hwy. 1, Pt. Reyes Station. Free. 415.663.1661.
Dance Palace and Community Center. Now here's a noble cause. The Artifacts provide the entertainment at this benefit for the Coastal Health Alliance. 9pm-1am. Pt. Reyes Station Dance Palace and Community Center, 503 B St., Pt. Reyes Station. $40-$60. 415.663.8198.
Smiley's. The name says it all. Reputedly the oldest bar in California, Smiley's hosts a New Year's dance not to be missed, especially if you live in Bolinas, because there aren't many more places to go. Live music TBA. 9pm. Smiley's, 41 Wharf Road, Bolinas. Free. 415.868.1311.
19 Broadway. Chrome Johnson, the new kings of twang, usher in the New Year with their critically acclaimed roots sound. This is a hot one, so come early. 9pm. 19 Broadway, 19 Broadway Blvd., Fairfax. $15. 415.459.1091.
Best of the San Francisco Standup Comedy Competition. The Marin Showcase Theater almost has the last laugh (as far as this list is concerned) as Anne and Jon Fox present the best comedians from this year's competition. Past competitions have been credited with discovering the likes of Dana Carvey, Ellen DeGeneres, Sinbad, and Robin Williams, so prepare to bust a gut. Marin Center's Showcase Theater, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. $25. 415.499.6800.
'For Whom the Bridge Tolls.' Marin's longest-running musical comedy revue yuks it up with two New Year's Eve shows at Giorgio's Ristorante Italiano. Shows feature a three-course dinner, party favors, and new skits lampooning George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. First program: dinner, 6pm; show, 7:30pm. Second program: dessert buffet, 9:45pm; show, 10:30pm. Giorgio's, 300 Drakes Landing Road. $95. 415.925.0808.
Sweetwater. Old-school funk, Latin percussion, reggae, and R&B square off as high-energy jam band Vinyl shake and rattle the Sweetwater on New Year's. Voted one of the top 25 jam bands in a 1999 nationwide poll, this is another show sure to sell out, so act quickly. And remember, if you're drinking, no driving. 9pm. Sweetwater Inn, 153 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. 415.388.7769.
Good News: New Year's without the Booze
- Generally speaking, when you find yourself dancing around naked on New Year's Eve, it's a safe bet alcohol is involved. However, if you happen to be participating in the Friends of Unconditional Dance's sixth annual New Year's Dance Festival at Harbin Hot Springs, then all bets are off--along with your clothes, if that's the way you want it. That's the cool thing about the clothing-optional resort near Middletown in Lake County. They really mean clothing-optional, and no one will poke fun if you choose not to disrobe. This year's festival features live tribal dance music by the bands Lost at Last and Land of the Blind, eight renowned instructors guiding classes in breathing and movement, vegetarian meals, indoor camping, and absolutely no alcohol or drugs. It just may be the perfect way to unwind and purify yourself for the coming year. Dec. 28-Jan. 1. Harbin Hot Springs, Middletown. $395 adults; $300 children accompanied by adult. 866.446.7556.
- On the other hand, if you find yourself fully clothed, sober as a judge, and doing the polka, chances are you've stumbled into Monroe Hall, the original 1922 Women's Building in Santa Rosa, which is hosting a public New Year's Eve party to celebrate the hall's new ownership and its beautiful new sound system and stage. Polkanomics provide the live music, Monroe Hall professionals provide the dance lessons and nonalcoholic refreshments. "With no First Night, this will be the perfect place to come and hang out with a bunch of nice people and be in a great old space," says the Hall's Nancy Vogl. All ages are invited. 8pm-1am. Monroe Hall, 1400 West College Ave., Santa Rosa. $15 at the door. 707.539.2323.
- Dancing of a different kind will be going on at the Marin Masonic Lodge in San Rafael. Called "contra," it's a traditional style of New England country dance put on by the North Bay Country Dance Society. No doubt it swings, as Bay Area swing bands Swing Farm and Driving with Fergus, along with Oregon's Woody Lane, provide the live music. 8:30pm-midnight. Marin Masonic Lodge, on Lootens Place between Fourth and Fifth streets, San Rafael. $22-$25 at the door. More info at www.nbcds.org.
- Our clean and sober New Year's Eve celebrations end at the North Bay shore, where tantric teacher Robert Frey and Celebrations of Love invite you to "plant the seeds for the best year ever." Frey's teachings focus on integrating the male and female, the sensual and the spiritual. This special nonalcoholic New Year's Eve event features a visioning ceremony, movement, chakra toning, Sufi dances, and loving interaction. A weekend retreat is also offered. Dress in white. Snacks after midnight. $30 in advance; $40 late registration (preregistration required). For registration, directions, and more information, call 415.924.5424.
--R. V. Scheide
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