BANGOR, Maine — It won’t be a typical Saturday night for most area restaurants, pubs and bars, but it won’t be a typical Christmas Eve, either.
Most will be open but will also be closing earlier than usual to give employees some time with family and friends.
The Olive Garden’s Saturday schedule — 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. — is typical of most Bangor-area restaurants.
“Tomorrow [Saturday] we’ll close at 8 p.m. to give our employees a chance to spend at least part of their Christmas Eve with their families,” said Olive Garden service manager Bobby Burns. “It’s not like it’s as busy as a normal Saturday for us.”
Burns added that they usually stay open until 11 p.m. Saturdays.
Uno Chicago Grill has curtailed its Saturday schedule by three hours as well.
“In years past, Christmas Eve isn’t our typical dining crowd. It’s not a typical crowd, either way,” said Uno general manager Ron Cross, who indicated he’ll be using about three-quarters of the usual staffing. “It’s more casual with drinks or desserts or appetizers. I think it’ll be a busy lunch and then maybe not so much later on.”
Uno, Olive Garden and every other restaurant surveyed said one thing that is doing big business this time of year is gift cards.
“It’s like a rush to the finish line with a lot of gift card sales,” said Peter Geaghan, co-owner of Geaghan’s Pub on Main Street in Bangor. “Gift card sales are always heavy the last two days of shopping season, no matter what days of the week they are.”
Geaghan’s, which has had the same Christmas hours policy for most of its 36 years in business, will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We have a better-than-average breakfast crowd, so we’ll have a full staff,” said Geaghan. “But I want my crew to be home with their family. I don’t want to be here and I don’t want to ask anyone to be here, either.”
While Uno’s gift card sales are up this year, those for Chili’s Bar and Grill in Bangor — which is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., rather than midnight, Saturday — are down, but general manager Ed Noonan offers a reason for that.
“We [are selling] more gift cards than we normally would, but not as many as we have in the past because you can buy them almost everywhere now, like grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as e-cards,” said Noonan.
For Chinese restaurants such as Oriental Jade off Stillwater Avenue in Bangor, activity resembles Santa Claus’ North Pole workshop.
“We do a lot of takeout and delivery business throughout the day Christmas Eve, and Christmas is one of our busiest days of the year from the time we open the door,” said Oriental Jade general manager Bonnie Newcomb.
The Jade opens at 11 a.m. Saturday with a nearly full staff and closes 90 minutes early at 9:30 p.m. On Sunday the restaurant will open with extra staff at noon instead of 11 a.m. and close at 11 p.m.
“It’s become a tradition for a lot of people to eat Chinese food on Christmas day,” said Newcomb, who has worked at Oriental Jade for 20 years.
Sea Dog Brewing Co. in Bangor has abbreviated hours with a full menu from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Saturday and the bar is open until 10 p.m. with a limited menu, according to bartender Jillian Yarmal. The popular riverside watering hole is closed Christmas Day, as are many Bangor bars and pubs, including Luna Bar and Grill and Benjamin’s, which is also closed Christmas Eve.
The Lucerne Inn restaurant in Dedham is closed Christmas Day, but will be open for dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Christmas Eve.