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New Year’s Revelers Defy Recession

December 30, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ Lobster parfait tops the seven-course menu for revelers willing to pay $110 each to gorge in the new year at Alison on Dominick Street, a trendy downtown restaurant that has been booked for weeks.

Recession? Not at the opulent Rainbow Room, 65 stories above Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, where leggy showman Tommy Tune will tap at a $395-a-person black-tie bash - tax, tip and bubbly excluded.

After a year of scrimping and worrying about everthing from job security to credit card debts, many Americans are eagerly anticipating a night of indulgence. Whether at quiet gatherings at home or at pricey prix fixe restaurant parties, they are opening long-shut wallets for New Year’s Eve.

″People held back all year and want to blow it now,″ said Victor Masullo, owner of Soho Wines & Spirits Ltd.

In San Francisco, champagne sales at Coit Liquors are going well as customers say, ‴Oh, to hell with everything. It’s Christmas and New Year’s,′ said manager Paul Riley.

For some, the focus is off alcohol and abundance in favor of quieter gatherings around the hearth.

″People are doing a lot of things at home,″ said Liz Neuman, president of Great Performances Catering Inc. in Manhattan.

Neuman’s company, like many others, is sacrificing a bit of profit to keep the parties rolling. Although hosts and hostesses are still spending, ″people aren’t just taking the price and saying ’That’s fine,‴ she said. They may opt for caviar blinis but forgo the rented linens.

At the Rainbow Room, spokeswoman Jessica Miller said the gala’s price was not raised from last year ″intentionally, because of sensitivity to our guests.″

In Atlanta, reservations are steady at the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, which operates six restaurants there. But spokesman Brad Anderholm said he wouldn’t be surprised if couples spend a little less than the average $125 last year.

Fort Worth, Texas, has taken some heavy recession wallops this year because of layoffs at companies ranging from General Dynamics Corp. to American Airlines. But that hasn’t held back New Year’s festivities at warehouse-size Billy Bob’s Texas country and western nightclub, which expects to be filled to capacity.

″When you’re talking about a recession, people are taking less long trips and spending more closer to home,″ said marketing director Pam Minick, who said 2,000 tickets for the group Shenandoah already are sold out.

For those unwilling to cast financial caution to the wind, there are First Night celebrations in many cities that allow the reveler to sample a variety of entertainment for a single ticket.

First Night originated over a decade ago in Boston, where it attracts more than 500,000 revelers. It has since spread throughout North America.

″It’s clearly a very affordable event,″ said Zeren Earls, the Boston festival’s executive and artistic director. While festival admission buttons cost $10, a growing number of people took advantage of advance sales this year so they could receive a $4 discount.

The first New York version, at $9 a person, gives the partygoer entry to any of 40 events that begin at 11:30 a.m. and run to the wee hours, including a performance by stilt walkers and an invitation to fox trot on the city’s biggest marble dance floor - Grand Central Terminal.

For those on an even tighter budget - and who are willing to brave the cameraderie of a rowdy throng - there will be the traditional dropping of the ball at Times Square.

As Americans let go of a year that began with the Persian Gulf War and ended with an economy still in the doldrums, there may be a current of uneasiness beneath the merrymaking.

″There’s a small sense of apprehension,″ Neuman said. ″It might be the last day of 1991, but there are 365 days of 1992 ahead, and there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty.″

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