HARRISBURG, Pa. - As the giant strawberry in front of the Hilton Harrisburg prepares to drop into 2018, the party atmosphere on Second Street is starting to warm up in anticipation of New Year's Eve, even if it's freezing outside.
"Sunday should be one of the biggest nights of the year," said Erik Sohadze, owner of Bridge's Social Club and the Capital Gastropub, both on Second Street. "Everybody is super excited. It's going to be a great experience for everybody as always."
New Year's Eve will also signal the grand opening of 205, a speakeasy on Walnut Street tucked away behind a secret door in the Anna Rose Bakery.
"We're literally between stocking and getting ready," said Ron Kamionka, who owns 205, as well as several other bars and establishments in downtown Harrisburg. "It gives us the chance to actually make sure that we have everything ready, because when showtime hits on New Year's Eve, you've got to be ready for it because the people are going to be here, we got to make sure we can service them."
Safety is at the forefront of the New Year's Eve celebrations. The city is planning a large police presence for the Strawberry Drop as well as for those celebrating in the bars on Second Street.
Kamionka says the larger police presence is a boost to business.
"We've seen our numbers actually increase over previous year's sales, because I think people, when they see police on the street in numbers, they feel safe," Kamionka said. "They're not worried about what can happen; they know that we're doing what we need to do to make sure that they have a good time."
It's been a few months since the city and bar owners came together to announce additional patrols and a larger police presence to keep the peace.
Sohadze says he's hired on at least 14 security guards to supplement the police presence in his establishments for New Year's Eve.
"We're going to make sure that everybody is safe and secure, and we will do our best to participate in the program as much as we can to make sure every single patron is safe and secure," he said.