Newark restaurants, bars prepare for Mardi Gras festivities
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
Fat Tuesday can mark one final chance for some Catholic students to let loose before the upcoming Lenten season. Senior Meredith Bilsky is one of those Catholic students.
“Most people tend to ignore the religious aspects of what Mardi Gras is supposed to be for,” Bilsky said. “So I will be at Ash Wednesday mass the next day after participating in drinking activities the night before.”
Traditionally, the fasting period known as Lent, a time when Catholics sacrifice some everyday luxury, begins with Ash Wednesday, a holy day during which priests mark the foreheads of churchgoers with a cross of palm ashes and Catholics vow to live a less excessive life for the 40 days leading up to Easter.
But the night before tends to be one of revelry, even in Newark. Bar owners and employees on Main Street have historically seen an increase in business on Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, compared to an average Tuesday night.
Jordan Bryan, a manager at Kildare’s Irish Pub, said last year there was a line down the stairs, out the door of the Main Street Galleria and halfway down the block, with some people unable to enter the pub. He said, despite the potential letting loose, he does not anticipate any major issues during the event this evening as the staff is always vigilant and bartenders know when to stop serving people.
“We basically want it to be a great party Mardi Gras style,” JB said. “There will be beads, giveaways, we’ll be throwing T-shirts and there will be a DJ at 10.”
Bryan said extra staff is scheduled for tonight and every person who works security will be on, but their preparation began earlier this month.
Their holiday-themed specials started last Friday and continue through this evening, he said, and the pub is serving four kinds of Louisiana-brewed Abita beer, themed cocktails and a Mardi Gras menu including Cajun cuisine such as shrimp Po Boys and fried catfish.
Emily Dryer, an assistant manager at Grotto Pizza, said her restaurant is serving the normal Tuesday drink specials as well as “hurricanes,” sweet cocktail drinks popular in New Orleans.
“As far as sales go, there was a 25 percent to 30 percent increase for that day [last year],” Dryer said.
However, Grotto will refrain from using decorations due to past experiences of students damaging them or tearing them down. The bar is also scheduling more staff than usual for Mardi Gras, including three extra security guards, Dryer said.
Deer Park Tavern is also offering a drink special and is preparing for festivities by staffing extra bartenders and security guards.
Manager Edward Settan said Deer Park has been trying to promote Mardi Gras, and they expect the night to be relatively busy.
“We’ll also have Jefe come and play like usual on Tuesday nights and he always brings out a good crowd,” Settan said.
On the law enforcement side of things, members of the Newark Police Department, such as Cpl. James Spadola, are not expecting too much commotion on Mardi Gras. He stated in an email message that the department is adequately staffed for the celebration, although they do not expect any major issues.
Spadola said there was not a significant increase in calls to the police department on Mardi Gras last year and the most activity was seen on East Main Street with officers responding to a criminal mischief, an assault and a vehicle theft in that area.
“Fat Tuesday generally elevates the amount of foot traffic in the city compared to a regular Tuesday night, but not to the levels typically seen for other celebrations such as Homecoming, Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day,” Spadola said.