Sarah Heeter is ready for the onslaught of drinkers who are back in town for Thanksgiving.

As a bartender at Sandbar & Grille in St. Joseph, Heeter said the evening before Thanksgiving has become a drinker's holiday and has prompted bars across Southwest Michigan to prepare for the people who will be out for a night of drinking.

Tonight marks a special time of year for many returning home for Thanksgiving.

It’s been referred to as “Drinksgiving,” “Blackout Wednesday,” “Drunksgiving,” “Whiskey Wednesday” and “Thanksgiving Eve” among other monikers.

At Sandbar, Heeter said they plan on bringing in a third bartender by 8 p.m. to compensate for the anticipated larger crowd – and because it is also Wing Wednesday.

“With the number of college kids coming to town, we’re going to have a long wait time,” Heeter said. “People are in town for Thanksgiving to see their families. It’s weird because for Christmas, everyone has a longer time off, but we don’t get as busy. Sales are going to be very high.”

Because Wednesdays tend to be busy for the St. Joseph bar, Heeter said tonight will likely see triple the amount of foot traffic they normally have.

She predicted it will be a hectic affair from 9 p.m. until the bar closes at 2 a.m.

“We already have the beer order that came in early. We stocked up more bottles of beer than usual,” Heeter said. “I’m pretty sure we’ll have more security too, just because people are crazy when they’re drunk.”

Some bars and pubs are putting on special events tonight in anticipation of the large crowds.

The Livery will feature the SlimGypsyBaggage and The Sypian Family Band joining forces to hold a David Bowie dance party. The bands are expected to play a set of original material before ending the night with David Bowie material for the Benton Harbor brewery’s annual "hometown-throw-down" event.

Simon Rusk, owner of The Livery, said the annual performance has been going on for the past three years.

Rusk is expecting a full house with a 250-person capacity. Compared to average nights, he expects twice the amount of customers.

“We’re pretty accustomed to having large groups. We have extra staff on hand and make sure we’re in a position to serve people well,” Rusk said. “It’s about people who get together and are looking for something fun to do. It ends up being a night where people like to celebrate.”

Rusk said they’ve refined their efforts over the years for nights like this.

“We’ve changed how people order; changed the setup of the bar to allow for more people. We have three bartenders come in on a big night,” he said. “We defiantly have made significant improvements in our process. We’ve gotten a lot busier, so my staff is more accustomed to the large crowds.”

In the seven years she’s worked at Coach’s Bar & Grill, Sarah Poziwilko said the Thanksgiving Eve crowd is always about double the normal-sized crowd.

This year, Coach’s is hosting an ’80s-themed costume party with a DJ.

This is the third year the Stevensville bar and restaurant is hosting a themed party on the night before Thanksgiving.

“I think people like to celebrate with people who they don’t get to see very often. People are also a little stressed when it comes to their families and the big group gatherings,” said Poziwilko, who is the general manager at Coach’s. “I’ve worked in the bar business for a while and I’ve found that to be consistent.”

Poziwilko said they have already brought on extra bartenders and servers for Drunksgiving. She said they’ve stocked up on liquor by ordering an extra amount a week and a half ahead of schedule.

“It’s been stressful for all restaurants and bars,” Poziwilko said. “It’s been more of an adjustment for ourselves and our staff each year. It seems to get bigger and bigger. When I think back to my first Drunksgiving, it's completely different.”

Contact:, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski