June 23, 2004

Not So Happy New Year's Eve

Snapshots In My Time, Of My Time.....Hauntings.

New Year's Eve 1987

I was living in Atlanta at the time. I had met my best friend (who later became my child's godmother) Sandy when I first moved there at the first of the year. We both lived in the suburbs in Lawrenceville, which was about an hour away from the city. We spent the year exploring the city. She had just moved down from Spokane, Washington. We decided that we were going to have a glamorous new year. We planned to go to a club for dancing and then before midnight, go have an elegant dinner. Everything was planned to the "t." We even bought formal dresses to mark the occasion. We left home about 7pm --we had a long drive to get downtown. The club was in Buckhead. Buckhead was our favorite place to go. We went there often.

We had made reservations in advance and we had to have tickets also. I was unable to physically pick up the tickets before that night but I had been assured that our tickets would be at the door. I had paid for them in advance...or so I thought. And was told! So off we went. Me in my strapless black cocktail dress with the white tuxedo bow in the front. I looked stunning. Sandy had on a black cocktail dress as well. We arrived at the club, left the car in the hands of valet parking and approached the biggest line/mob/chaos I had ever seen.

After waiting for quite some time to get to the front of the line we were excited to get in. We were stopped at the door. The club was overbooked and while I was down on the list to get in with a reservation, they could not let me in like many others they turned away. I pursued saying that my tickets were paid for as I have given credit card info. I was told that they did not run the cards thru as they were concerned about being sold out. My name on that list only meant that if they had room, I would be a allowed to enter and tickets would be paid for at that time. We had no place to go. We were so disappointed. Well, we were a frequent patron of all the local jazz clubs so we decided to go to a few of our favorite spots to see if we could get in. Every place was booked and filled to capacity. It was New Year's Eve.

Time to regroup. We knew the restaurant had a bar area so we decided to just go to the restaurant early , sit in the bar area and at our appointed time for dinner, let them know we were there. Our reservation time was 10:00. We had chosen one of the most trendy places to go to at that time: The Pleasant Pheasant. At that time the owners of that restaurant owned about 6 others in the area and they were distinguished and set apart for food quality and service. It was the place to be that night. It was packed and it was so packed that I told Sandy that we had better check in earlier than out reservation time. We checked in at 9pm. We sat in the bar with all the other festively dressed people and had drinks. We watched New Year's shows on the TV.

It was very festive and we had a great time in the bar area. Around 10 I went to the bar and asked again about our reservation. I was told the same thing the employees had been telling many others that night--that the place was packed, they were running behind but we would be called for dinner soon. We had to go upstairs for dinner.

A little about the Pleasant Pheasant chain.
The Peasant Restaurants began in February 1973 when co-founders Steve Nygren and Dick Dailey left their respective careers with $25,000 in borrowed money and a dream. Poor and happy, they opened the Pleasant Peasant in a charming turn of the century building in Midtown Atlanta. The casual yet elegant atmosphere, sophisticated, yet informal service, and large, yet affordable portions made the Pleasant Peasant an instant favorite of Atlanta diners.

The restaurant was a place to meet friends and make new ones, yet distinct enough to provide a very special night out. This success led to the opening of the Peasant Uptown in Phipps Plaza in August of 1974. Set in a New Orleans style courtyard, this new Peasant Restaurant proved once again that fine dining need not be stuffy or expensive.The company grew happily over the next decade, then was sold in 1988 and again in 1997.

At 10:30 I asked again and I was told that we would be called within the next 30 minutes. I was starving and we wanted to have a gourmet dinner. The new year was fast approaching. Well about 11pm they broke out the free champagne and everyone got happy on the bubbles from that. About 11:25 I again asked the reservation and the face on the bartender froze. In fact he froze still as a statue and I knew something was wrong. He said he would be right back and he frantically called somewhere and then I saw him go to the bottom of the stairs and someone came down and they began to speak frantically. They called a third person who looked like the manager and I knew that from that huddle we would not be having dinner. 2 of the men went upstairs, then a few minutes later came back down and talked some more.

Finally the "manager" looking man came over and the first thing he did was apologize profusely. The kitchen was closed and we would not be able to eat. I was furious and told the manager so as we had been checking repeatedly about the reservation. He said with so many people there and the place was packed we had been missed. I explained that this fabulous dinner we were to have was the pinnacle of the evening. We wore formal gowns to have this magical dinner and bring in the new year at that restaurant. He apologized some more and apologized even more. We were so disappointed. Our planned celebration was a bust!

The manager offered to make it up to us. He gave us each $100 gift certificates to come back and eat whenever we wanted at any of the restaurants in that chain. We took the gift certificates. He even refunded back to us anything we had spent on drinks or appetizers that night. He took down our names and we had even more free drinks to bring in the new year.

Well, Sandy and I were starving and were wondering if anything was still open. There was only one place open. There is always just one place that is open regardless what time it is? (Have you guessed where?) The Waffle House of course!!!!! Open 24 hours a day, 8 days a week. AND...we had to wait an hour to eat. It was also packed to the gills with people. We had steak and eggs and called it a night. Happy Friggin' New Year.

About a week or two later we showed up at the Pleasant Pheasant and we did not even have to say what we wanted. As soon as we walked in the door, I saw an employee at the bar make a call and within an instant the manager and a chef greeted us by name and escorted us upstairs to the best table in the house. We were treated like queens. Our every whim was attended to. We had the most fantastic , gourmet dinner ever!! I ate escargot till I could eat escargot no more. It was well worth the wait and the disappointment we felt on New Years Eve was made up for in food quality and extra special service.

Sandy and I were able to enjoy 2 other dinners at 2 other restaurants in that same chain and we got great treament wherever we went. We never had another New Year's like that one where nothing worked out as planned; but, I can safely say that it all worked out in the end. We had a Happy Belated New Year.


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