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Comparison Shopping: Surveying the masses for last-minute New Year’s Eve parties in Chicago

A few weeks ago, while listlessly discussing options for seeing off 2009, my sister, Claire, proclaimed the following: “Other than marriage, New Year’s Eve is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the American public.” I posted her observation as my status update on Facebook and received no fewer than 15 comments echoing…

A few weeks ago, while listlessly discussing options for seeing off 2009, my sister, Claire, proclaimed the following: “Other than marriage, New Year’s Eve is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the American public.” I posted her observation as my status update on Facebook and received no fewer than 15 comments echoing the sentiment, from “Hear, hear! Down with New Year’s!” to “NYE = amateur night.” It was a mini revolt. 

In a conversation befitting a couple of octogenarians, Claire and I decided we would celebrate the first moments of 2010 with a sisterly dinner at my preferred neighborhood restaurant, Gemini Bistro, followed by a home screening of Julie & Julia. But Claire has been strangely quiet for the past few days. I suspect she’s bailing, so I’ve started polling friends and friends of friends, looking for a place to latch on. Here, a few of the top contenders—with notes on how each celebrated last year:

Lauren Boukas, publicist for couponcabin.com, River North
Last year: “In 2009 I stayed in, like the two years before. I played board games, wore sweatpants, ate lots of food, and was actually able to hear my friends talk.”
This year: “I decided to go to Angels & Kings because a) it’s my favorite bar; b) it’s two blocks from my apartment; c) a bunch of my friends are going; and d) we’ll have tables so we can actually sit down! It’s just another night as far as I’m concerned, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up. I just want it to be laid-back and not have to elbow my way through crowds to get a drink.”
If you want to go: Angels & Kings still has $99 NYE tickets available, which include a premium bar from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and a champagne toast at midnight, plus a take-home commemorative glass. E-mail jessica@angelsandkings.com for group reservations.

Mark Rumble, editor at kitchens.com, Wicker Park
Last year: “I stayed home by myself. I watched DVDs until 11:45, then turned on NBC to see the ball drop. It took me a few minutes to realize the ball had dropped at 11 Central Standard Time, and I’d missed all the nationally televised celebrations.”
This year: “I’m ringing in 2010 at LaSalle Power Company’s 1920s-style speakeasy bash. After last year, I decided I’d suck it up and pay for a semi-pricey party if it meant I could be with friends. I’m hoping some girl will think giving me a midnight kiss is a good idea. Unfortunately, not only is the party sold out, the promoters are boasting that it’s the first NYE party in the city to do so. Seems like a dubious claim, but, regardless, there are no tickets left.”

Jeremy Pastin, IT pro, Lake View
Last year: “A group of friends and I bought a party package at Howl at the Moon. It was a pretty standard night that just happened to cost $100-plus per person. The best part was when a bunch of cougars snuck over and stole one of our purchased tables. They were obviously trying to have a Sex and the City moment, but it wasn’t working for us.”
This year: “We’re all going to a Japanese steakhouse called Shinto, in Naperville, where some friends live. We figure we’re guaranteed a nice meal, and we don’t have to worry about spending tons on well drinks. Afterwards, we’re going back to a friend’s house for cocktails and board games. It hasn’t been a great year financially, so we were looking for something fun but not too expensive.” (When we called, Shinto had a limited number of seatings available.)

James Gustin, entertainment entrepreneur, Rogers Park
Last year: “I can’t remember. I think I stayed home.”
This year: “We’re going to the Playboy party at the Hilton. We’ll leave before it gets nuts and head to the Evanston Boxing Club, where I practice Brazilian jujitsu, to drink some Spanish bubbly and hold hands with my lovely wife.”
If you want to go: Tickets to NYE 2010: Official Playboy New Year’s Eve Celebration at the Hilton Chicago are still available for $165 to $225. Ten Playboy bunnies will be in attendance, but with a guest list of 4,000, I wouldn’t count on rubbing elbows (or bunny tails).

Amalie Drury, The Chaser, Old Town
Last year: I was working, directing a midnight photo shoot at Carnivale. I brought along two friends, and we shouted at people to turn their heads this way and that until my voice was gone. Later we sat down for a bite, writing our resolutions on the paper tablecloth. A man on stilts happened by and jotted down his own plan for 2009, which rhymed with the year and is unrepeatable here. When it was time to go home, I couldn’t get a cab, so I paid the photographer $20 to drop me off.
This year: In lieu of dinner with my sister or my lame back-up plan of staying home and making soup, my friend Jenny is advocating an outing to Crimson Lounge. I guess I’ll dig up something sparkly to wear and make the best of it. After all, you only ring in a new decade once—every ten years, that is.
If you want to go: The passport-themed bash at Crimson Lounge was conceived as a globe-hopper, featuring five different countries’ culture, music, and cuisine. A ticket, still available for $135, gets you appetizers, four-and-a-half hours of premium open bar, and a champagne reception.

See you next year: The Chaser returns Thursday, January 7, 2010.

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