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Published: Wednesday, 11/23/2005

Police expect bars to be stuffed with patrons for Thanksgiving Eve

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Norma Horner has served up bottles of beer for four years at Papa Joe's and each Thanksgiving Eve has been the same - swamped.

"That's our best night," she said from the West Toledo bar that caters to college students and neighborhood regulars. "This triples St. Patrick's Day."

Rob Talpas, a bartender at Nino's in Findlay, can relate. The eating-and-drinking establishment is gearing up for a big crowd tonight.

"A lot of people are home and they get kind of bored hanging out with their parents," he said. "We're expecting a big night."

So are many law enforcement agencies, which announced they plan to step up patrols, looking for speeders and impaired drivers this holiday weekend.

The eve before Thanksgiving is becoming one of the biggest nights for drinking.

Returning college students get together with old friends, and those who don't go home look for a place to hang out.

Visiting relatives catch up on what's happened since the last time they saw each other. For many, it's the start of a four-day weekend.

While businesses prepare for a surge of customers, the season's first snowfall could keep some people home.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service are predicting 2 to 4 inches of snow this afternoon and another 1 to 2 inches this evening. Accu-Weather Inc., a private forecasting ser-vice based in State College, Pa., called for 1 to 3 inches this afternoon and evening.

Nonetheless, businesses - such as Metropolitan Distributing near downtown Toledo - are keeping busy.

General Manager Al Cherry said his business has received requests from bars, especially those catering to young people, to have a little extra beer on hand.

At the same time, law enforcement, such as the Lucas County Sheriff's Office, will have a few additional officers out tonight through Monday.

"Law enforcement is very much aware of what goes on the night before Thanksgiving," said Gwen Neundorfer, coordinator of the Lucas County Traffic Safety Program.

Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Rick Zwayer agreed. "We're certainly finding out that Thanksgiving is a rival to the New Year's holiday in the amount of individuals who go out and consume alcohol," he said.

Authorities and other safety advocates said awareness campaigns, such as those around New Year's, need to focus on this time of year because of the number of accidents, fatalities, and injuries.

"New Year's has gone down considerably compared to Thanksgiving in the total number of crashes," Lieutenant Zwayer said.

Accidents left 12 people dead in Ohio during last year's Thanksgiving holiday period, he said. Eight of the deaths were alcohol-related, he said.

Nationally, the trend has been slightly different.

"Although Thanksgiving traditionally has the highest number of fatalities, it does not have the highest number of alcohol-related fatalities," said Rae Tyson of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Nationwide statistics from last year show that 571 people died in accidents during the four-day Thanksgiving holiday period. He said 42 percent were alcohol-related. The percentage of alcohol-related crashes was lower than other holidays, including New Year's Eve.

Blade staff writers Jennifer Feehan and David Patch contributed to this report.

Contact Christina Hall at:

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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