Increased police safety patrols for Thanksgiving weekend as bars host their busiest night of the year

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Police are stepping up patrols on local roads and highways during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday night is of particular concern because it is known as the busiest bar night of the year in the country.

Some bar owners know it as 'Black Wednesday' because of the profits earned on the day before Thanksgiving, while law enforcement hope it does not become 'Blackout Wednesday' because of an increased number of impaired drivers.

"Tonight is our busiest night of the year, even bigger than New Year's Eve, because in central Pennsylvania, everybody comes home from college, everybody comes home to visit the family, so it's more like a reunion night," said Ron Kamionka, who owns several bars on 2nd Street, including Sawyer's and the Bourbon Street Saloon.

State police and local law enforcement will take part in DUI checkpoints and other activities.

"With today being one of the busiest travel days, it's also one of the biggest drinking days of the year as well," said Tpr. Brent Miller with the Pennsylvania State Police. "So our troopers are going to be out there and we have a lot of things to focus on, but one of the most important ones is driving under the influence."

Bar owners on 2nd Street are especially conscious of safety two months after they negotiated additional police presence with Mayor Eric Papenfuse and the Harrisburg Police department.

"We extended our program with having more police officers in the street till December 31st, so we are planning to be safe tonight," said Erik Sohadze, owner of the Capital Gastropub. "We have extra security guards scheduled as well."

Police usually shut down 2nd Street after the bars close at 2 a.m. in an additional effort to discourage drunk driving.

"State Police will be down here and Harrisburg City itself has some some people pre-positioned downtown, so there's going to be a lot of police presence to make sure that everybody has a good time and gets into their cars and gets home safely," Kamionka said.