Taxi services expect busy New Year’s Eve getting people home

Posted: Friday, December 30, 2005

Business in service professions rises and falls with the tide of daily customers. Depending on the day, servers in restaurants may run around for an entire shift without a break or stand around waiting for customers to show up.

There are certain days on which an overabundance of business is a given, however. Restaurant servers have Easter Sunday. Retail salespeople have Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving. Fishing guides on the Kenai Peninsula gear up for spawning season.

For taxi cab drivers, the busiest night of the year will be Saturday — New Year’s Eve.

“We’ll definitely put some miles on that day,” said Brent Hibbert, owner of Alaska Cab of Soldotna. “Our biggest concern is getting people home from the bars safely. We want nobody going to jail or riding with our competition — the Alaska State Troopers.”

The busy night comes at a welcome time. Taxis often serve as an additional source of income for drivers, many of whom work seasonally as commercial fisherman, fishing guides, loggers or construction workers. There are even a few college students on the rosters.

According to Hibbert, the unseasonably warm weather has taken its toll on business.

“It has slowed down,” he said. “We haven’t been as busy as we have been in the past when we had the snow and cold.”

Of course, the reason for the steady stream of New’s Year’s Eve business is alcohol. Bartenders and servers work hard on New Year’s Eve — just as taxi drivers do — and the two groups work together to manage the flow of party-goers.

Police officers regularly make their presence known at popular night spots, driving through parking lots as a reminder of the cost of drunk driving. That cost in Alaska reaches into the thousands of dollars for driving under the influence. A conviction also leads to jail time — even on the first offense.

According to Randy Merritt, manager of Hooligan’s Saloon in Soldotna, cab fare is a paltry investment by comparison.

“We always encourage riding in cabs,” Merritt said. “I always preach that you could pay cab fare to New York City and back for what a DUI costs.”

Merritt’s saloon also has security guards at the doors watching out for patrons who may have indulged in a few too many holiday libations. The practice is a common one for busy nights.

At the Riverside House in Soldotna, which generally stays open later than Hooligan’s and is expected to keep its doors open until 4:30 a.m. Sunday, security guards are always on the lookout.

“They call cabs constantly, and (drivers) are pretty good about showing up quickly,” said Kevin O’Fallon, who manages the Riverside’s bar in the evenings.

Hibbert said the partnership helps both groups.

“We rely a lot on the door men,” Hibbert said. “It makes our jobs easier, and we try to take care of each other.”

O’Fallon said drivers usually are close by for patrons who need them, but a on a busy night there may be some lag time. Partially for that reason, the Riverside has another strategy to keep drunk drivers off the road Saturday — don’t let them leave. For New Year’s Eve, the establishment is offering a prime rib and crab dinner for two with a hotel room for $100.

“We figure a lot of our customers will be staying in the hotel that night,” O’Fallon said.

According to Hibbert, the lag time should not affect riders who use the service to get to work or to the airport. He advised those individuals to inform the dispatcher about their destinations when they call.

“People that depend on us every day, we want to take care of them, too,” Hibbert said.



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