What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

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Steak dinners and live music. Champagne and noisemakers. Bowling and gambling.

As Payson-area businesses gear up to ring in the new year tomorrow night, their reservation books are filling up with anxious patrons.

And some restaurants and bars are so overbooked, they are using every possible inch of maximum capacity.

A 140-person dinner banquet hall at Mazatzal Casino is already sold out and the other is going fast, said Lanell Hooke, a Mazatzal marketing assistant.

"We're sold out every year," she said of one of the casino's biggest money-making nights.

Other area businesses also are flourishing with early reservations.

Nancy Greene, owner of Rye Bar and Restaurant, said she's so overbooked that she might have to double up two-person reservations at tables for four.

"We've already got so many people now, we might have to put deuces with deuces," Greene said.

And each party has its own hook to draw a crowd.

The casino, for example, will have a hot-seat drawing -- every 15 minutes a winner is chosen to enter a money machine for their chance to grab as much cash as they can.

"All we want to do is give back to all the people that have patronized Mazatzal Casino and throw one heck of a party," said casino spokesman Marc Kaplan.

The casino also will provide live bands, comedians, a magician and a $55-a-head dinner, with drinks included and its own free shuttle service.

On the other hand, Payson's bowling alley, Rim Country Lanes, is sponsoring its own "family-style" New Year's Eve party, where a maximum of six people can rent a lane, receive party favors and ring in the New Year early with a cider toast at 9:30 p.m.

The bowling alley also is throwing a late-night party with a traditional champagne toast at midnight. "Some people are concerned about being out later at night on New Year's," said Rim Country Lanes owner Bob Baker. "This way, families have the opportunity to celebrate the New Year at a reasonable hour."

Other area bars and restaurants are offering a variety of dinner specials, free party favors and free midnight champagne toasts.

Famous Sam's, for example, will offer food and drink promotions with no cover charge, a free champagne toast and karaoke.

And at the Ox Bow Saloon, after a $5 cover charge, bar patrons can enjoy a live band and a DJ, along with a balloon drop and champagne at midnight, said bartender Geri Perpich.

But Buffalo Bar & Grill owner Jim Price said he wants to keep this year low key. He's serving steak and shrimp dinners for $12.95, champagne and party favors included, but with pool, darts and a dash of karaoke.

"Something peaceful," he said, adding he doesn't want it to get too crazy. "It gets everybody in trouble."

Payson police will be on the lookout and offering a volunteer patrol that will take people home from parties, said police Lt. Don Engler. "That's our way of encouraging people to get home safely and not drive when they've had too much to drink," Engler said.

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