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Last Minute New Year’s Eve Guide

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Oh, the mad scramble that is the last day of the year. You made it through the holidays with or without the family and then rushed to get all your work done despite the social obligations of friends from out of town. And now you’re about to leave work or you’re heading home on the train and you’re realizing that it’s here: New Year’s Eve. You’re wondering if maybe, just maybe you can get into that big event, go to that crazy party, kiss that special someone at midnight.

Well, it’s too damn late, so stop worrying and start drinking. No, not right now! You’ve got to pace yourself! You can’t be a quivering pile of gelatinous party-goer when the ball drops! You’ve got be able to at least count backwards from ten…

By all means call friends and check your Facebook invites for last-minute parties. But failing that, here is a fail-proof guide to doing Amateur Night like a pro.

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Seriously, give up on that special event. If you really wanted to go to that thing you would have bought a ticket in early December like everyone else. Get off Stub Hub and stop trolling the internets for some miraculously cheap and awesome and somehow not sold out event. It’s not there! Move on!

Photo luca rossato

Don’t be this guy…this year. Photo luca rossato



Ok, now that you’ve stopped stressing, it’s time to have some fun. To do that, you’re going to have to get dudded up, fancified and otherwise made presentable. This is New Year’s Eve and people will be dressed in every manner from the nines to the strange. There’s no wrong way to do it except by wearing the same, run-of-the-mill hoodie and beat up kicks that you always wear.

Where’s that tuxedo t-shirt? How about that suit you last put on for a funeral? Dust that shit off and hit the streets. And remember: it’s going to be cold out and you’ll probably have to walk home…


Photo: Neil Girling


Grab whatever chemical party favors you have lying around your house. Roll a joint and tuck it in your pocket. But if the cupboard is bare, don’t bother calling your drug dealer. He turned his phone off at 5pm and sold out of all the good stuff last night anyway. Besides, he’s on his way to a nice dinner with the tour manager of a popular music group right now.

Instead, head to the liquor store and get a small bottle of hooch — just enough to share with someone in a pinch. Whiskey is as popular for sharing on city streets as ever, but with people still clinging to “gluten intolerance” you may want to go with tequila or brandy. Going along with the gluten thing is way easier than trying to convince someone on New Year’s Eve that they just have bad skin and get diarrhea like everyone else.

Don’t crack that bottle open just yet! Drinking in front of liquor stores is for homeless alcoholics and you’re a dignified gent, especially in that tuxedo t-shirt and funny hat. Save that bottle for later, possibly even tomorrow.



You need to lay down a solid foundation of food before you start piling on four stories of booze. Think substantial, like a steak or Italian food. But most sit-down restaurants will be packed with reservations. So it’s time to give up again. Hit a burger joint, a taquerias, or a pizza parlor. This isn’t your last meal, just your last meal of the year.



John Harke

photo: John Harke

Ok, now that you’re fully prepared for a night on the town, you have two main options: out in the cold or inside a bar. We recommend a close place, since you’ll probably have to walk home.

The outdoor thing can be fun. Yelling in the streets with thousands of drunken yahoos from all walks of life. Justin Herman Plaza at the intersection of Market and Embarcadero is the best outdoor bet in town. There will be thousands of people, music,  and a fireworks show at the witching hour. The main drag with it is a lack of places to pee. A friend once decided to see the Ball drop at times square. His solution to the lack of bathrooms amidst a crowd of millions? Adult diapers. ( neither encourages or condones the use of adult diapers as a party aid)

Twin Peaks is also a fun place to hear the city go crazy and watch the fireworks. But it’s also tricky to get to and even further lacking in amenities.

That’s why we say:



Most bars on New Years, believe it or not, are pretty dead until about 11pm, when they fill up like a Tokyo subway at rush hour. The key is to pick a place, get a seat at the bar and hold it down. But don’t take our word for it, listen to long-time bartender Joe Tesitore: “I’ve been working every New Year’s Eve for as long I can remember. I would work at my dad’s bar in New York and his place would get packed from about ten o’clock on. Me and my brother would sit in the back and wash glasses and pop the champagne for the toast.”

“It’s usually just locals,” he says of Aub Zam Zam, where he currently works. “It doesn’t get too packed in there. I think a lot of people do house parties and stuff you know? A lot of people don’t go out — it’s such an amateur night and most of those don’t even make it til midnight they get so fucked up. At the neighborhood bars it is usually dead til about eleven. People go have dinner, they do a little toast, then they go home.”

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Aub Zam Zam. Photo: Buzz Andersen

Don’t run willy nilly from bar to bar, hoping to find one that’s just packed to the gills with folks that fit your personal sexual preference. Pick a spot you feel ok with, hang and be cool. Make chit chat with the folks next to you and be honest: if you’re by yourself, say so and ask if they mind including you. People can be extremely gracious (especially after a cocktail or two).

It of course doesn’t hurt to have options and San Francisco has several great nightlife corridors packed with bars to suit your sensibilities:

  1. North Beach: the Devil’s Acre has been churning out raucus New Years longer than most cities in the country. Wander down Grant Street where you’ll find live music in the Saloon, Maggie Magiries, and Grant and Green.
  2. Polk Gulch: lined with everything from Punk Rock dives (Hemlock) to conceptual Cocktaileries (Kozy Kar), Polk Street has tons of bars to pick from. And its Tenderloin digs won’t leave you feeling weird if you wind up drinking on the street.
  3. Haight Street: Upper and lower Haight still have some of the best come-as-you-are dives left in this town. From rockin’ Molotov’s to loungey Zam Zam, to the beer-tastic Toronado, you can find your flavor on Shakedown street.
  4. The Castro: Boystown is as bumpin’ at night as ever. See if you can get your last meal at the Sausage Factory…
  5. Valencia Street: straight-forward boozin’ at Zeitgiest, Delirium, Kilowatt and Casanova’s, just to name a few. Live music at the Chapel, Amnesia and the Knockout. You’ve got options galore and tons of places to eat.
  6. The Marina: You’re reading Broke Ass Stuart’s Goddam Website, so you probably aren’t really interested in the Marina (neither are we).
  7. Inner Sunset and Inner Richmond: The mellow Avenues still know how to get down for the New Year. The 9th and Irving area has a good handful of bars to choose from as does Clement and 6th.

And, hey, that bottle from the liquor store isn’t for inside the bar.



Cabs, Ubers, Lyfts and buses all get incredibly busy. So, again, your best bet is to saunter down the street, hopefully with a friend, possibly pulling off that pint bottle you picked up earlier. Don’t worry, walking around San Francisco on a cold night is way better than walking in most cities. You’ll see house parties and bump into other folks walking somewhere. You might even get invited to a party (it’s happened to us!).

Try to be wherever you plan to spend New Years by 10:30 at the latest.



As the final hour draws near, slow down and time things so you’ll have a drink in hand. It’s safe to expect a champagne pour at midnight, but no matter where you are, no one is going to help you get a drink at 11:59.

drinking alones


Raise a glass to one more year completed. You deserve it. You put up with some shit and you got some cool things done. Sure there were hard times, but there were good times — even great times — too. Any way you cut it, it’s pretty cool to be alive. You’re Young, broke and beautiful and living in an amazing place, even if you are working your ass off. Cheers.



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Sam Devine

Sam Devine

Sam Devine is drawn to art, bikes, song and drink like the proverbial moth to the moth-heroin. He plays music, tends bar, and makes silly animations. In addition to writing for he's appeared in several publications, including MotoSpirit, SF Bay Guardian, Motorcyclist magazine, SF Weekly, and The Kiteboarder. Check him out at