New Year's Eve is going to feel a little different this year. The gloomy possibility that the recession will keep people in their homes has restaurants and bars slashing prices. And even the most traditionally extravagant events are making tweaks to adapt to the economic crisis.
Times Square partiers may notice, for example, that their hair stays cleaner this year; only about 3,000 pounds of confetti will be launched into the square Wednesday night, which is about half of what was tossed a couple of years ago.
People may also notice that a prominent name is missing from the marquee.
"Our sponsor last year was GM, and they are not our major sponsor this year, so that's a reflection of the times," explains Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance.
Instead, Three Musketeers candy has stepped in as a sponsor.
Most of the changes, however, are more behind-the-scenes — like certain event organizers giving up their plush after-party pads.
"I'm sleeping in the office this year; I didn't get a hotel room," says Jeffrey Strauss, co-producer of the Times Square event.
This is not something he plans to whine about as the champagne is flowing. Who wants to be a downer on an evening dedicated to leaving one's cares behind and focusing on the future?
And yet John Williams, president of the hospitality company New York Guest, says the anxiety among bars and restaurants is obvious.
"I think last year there was a great exuberance, and I think people are just looking for a better value this year. And the hotels and restaurants recognize it and have come around."
A year ago, a person would have paid $500 to see a New Year's Eve cabaret show at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel. This year, it's just dinner, and it costs only $100. How about something a little less formal? In 2007, it cost $645 to reserve a lane at Bowlmor in New York. This year, it costs $120 less to bowl into the New Year.
Williams says the economics of New Year's Eve has a lot in common with airline pricing; owners will do anything to fill the joint.
"A seat at a restaurant for $120 is better than a seat with no money," he says.
Not that there aren't still plenty of very expensive options. Aileen Gallagher, an editor of "Grub Street," New York magazine's nightlife blog, says the low-end events may be cheaper, but the top-of-the-line VIP events are more expensive than last year.
"New Year's Eve is always a blowout event. People always spend money on it. And especially on a year when people don't think they'll be spending money on 2009, they'll dish it out this one last time," she says.