A new program is in the works this New Year's Eve to ensure that all the people who celebrate with libations will make it home safely.
The Juneau/Lynn Canal Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant & Retailer's Association, or CHARR, along with more than a dozen businesses, are sponsoring the Safe Ride Home Program to provide customers with free taxi rides after ringing in the New Year. CHARR has rented six taxis from one of the licensed cab companies to bring revelers home from any one of 14 locations around the city between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.
"I think the key is to help people be responsible," said Leeann Thomas, owner of the Triangle Club and a board member of Alaska CHARR.
The association has not released the name of the cab company it chose to help facilitate the program because it's concerned people will call that company's number directly, Thomas said.
"What people will have to do is they will have to go to the businesses and ask the employees to call the special number for the Safe Ride Home Program," she said. "It's not any cab that you flag down."
The program was modeled after other Alaska programs that help get partiers home safely on holidays. Thomas said Ketchikan has a highly successful program that has cabs and buses shuttling people home on New Year's Eve.
Marlintini's Lounge owner and Juneau/Lynn Canal CHARR Vice President Ethan Billings said they are hoping the program will grow, possibly having it in place for other holidays, such as the Fourth of July and Halloween.
"It's in its infancy and we would have wished more bars would have come to the table to be part of it, but we hope they will in the future," Billings said.
Juneau Police Department Sgt. David Campbell said those who choose to drink on New Year's Eve should be sure to be responsible and not break the law by driving intoxicated.
For Safe Ride Home Program
Alaska Cache, Arctic Bar, Baranof Hotel, Lucky Lady, Triangle Bar, Doc Water's Restaurant and Pub, Alaskan Hotel and Bar, Island Pub, GW Teal, Moose Lodge, Marlintini's Lounge, Hangar on the Wharf, Duck Creek Market, Elks Club.
Patrons are asked to request a cab from participating businesses' employees.
"We do have more officers than normal scheduled to deal with the increased activity that we are anticipating," he said.
Matt Felix, director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Juneau, said New Year's Eve is a critical time of the year to be responsible on the road because of the high number of celebrations around the city.
"In Juneau, where things are spread out to some degree, you find a lot of people taking risks during that period who don't usually take risks," Felix said.
It may take up to 30 minutes for a taxi to arrive at a particular business so people looking for a free cab ride home should be patient and understanding, Thomas said. Also, to maximize space and time, the vans will be shared between different parties.
"We're going to try to get as many people home as safely and efficiently as possible so they will have to share rides," Thomas said.
Although the last call for a cab ride will be when the sponsoring establishments close - 3 a.m. in most cases - CHARR has rented some of the cabs until 5 a.m. to ensure everyone who needs a ride will receive one. They also have set aside money in case it takes longer to get everybody home.
"The local businesses want to make Juneau safe so we have collected thousands of dollars," Thomas said.
Billings said people should consider taking a cab and think before they drink on New Year's Eve.
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