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New Year’s is back on the calendar

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneChristian Hamilton cleans the bar Thursday at Bella Union Restaurant and Saloon in Jacksonville.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneChristian Hamilton cleans tables Thursday at Bella Union Restaurant and Saloon in Jacksonville.
Local New Year’s Eve events will include champagne, music — but no proof of vaccination, some establishments said

On the last night of 2020, no one got to watch the big ball drop on television, listen to live music or toast to the new year at Jacksonville’s Bella Union Restaurant and Saloon.

That was because the case counts of COVID-19 prohibited such festivities. But 2021 promises to bring some New Year’s cheer.

Social media feeds show that many Rogue Valley establishments plan their own New Year’s Eve celebrations, and Bella Union is no exception.

“We feel good that we’re able to do it,” said Christian Hamilton, co-owner of the establishment, adding his observation of “pent-up demand” for a New Year’s celebration.

“I think the Bella Union is known for throwing parties, and that’s something we’ve tried to reintroduce by having live music and our oysters and ale event and other things. So to be able to do New Year’s Eve this year will be great.”

Bella Union was one of a few businesses the Mail Tribune reached out to inquire about New Year’s Eve plans, and some said they were experiencing staffing issues and would not be open Dec. 31.

On the pandemic front, Bella Union and another major business, Callahan’s Mountain Lodge above Ashland, both said they would not require proof of vaccination upon entry. In terms of masking, Bella Union requires its customers to wear masks except when they’re eating, but Callahan’s came across as less committed in a prepared statement.

“The only mandate we are aware of is that indoor mask wearing is required. It’s posted at the doors and various locations throughout the lodge,“ Mark Cleaner, Callahan’s co-owner, stated. ”However, the county health department explained that Callahan’s Mountain Lodge is not a law enforcement agency. Guests are obligated to wear a mask as a citizen of Oregon. We are all responsible adults and can determine what is best for ourselves.“

During the New Year’s Eve festivities, Bella Union will have about 25 working employees, all of them wearing masks and following the public health protocols. Customers must wear masks, too, with the exception of eating.

Live music, featuring a local band Adam Gabriel and the Cavaliers, will start at 8 p.m. and go until 1 a.m.

“They’re a ton of fun and they play here regularly,” Hamilton said.

Bella Union’s televisions will be tuned to the ball drop at New York’s Times Square, which will include only 15,000 spectators who are masked and vaccinated. Guests at Bella Union will toast with champagne, party hats and noisemakers.

“Historically, by the time midnight comes around, the restaurant is pretty much quiet and it’s just busy in the bar after 10 o’clock,” Hamilton said. “It’s just first-come, first-served in the bar. We don’t take any reservations.”

Callahan’s will offer a ticketed affair. The cost is $150 per couple or $75 for a single adult if they order the three-course meal. If not, then the charge is $50 a couple, $30 per adult. The cheaper tickets pay for a party that begins at 9 p.m. and includes a champagne toast.

Jennifer Martinez, the daughter of Mark and Lisa Cleaner, who have owned Callahan’s since fall of 2020, said that while last year’s New Year’s Eve celebration was outdoors and had limited seating, the 2021 event is the first New Year’s Eve “party” in Callahan’s 75-year history.

“It is because of the new ownership,” Martinez said. “My parents ... felt like it was something we could provide with fresh new eyes. My parents love to entertain and really wanted to bring that atmosphere to Callahan’s. We hope (guests) come and cut loose and have a good time.”

The entertainment will include The Rogue Fire Circus and DJ G_RAD, performing all the way to 1 a.m.

“We’re excited to work with them, for sure,” Martinez said. “Looking forward to putting on a good show, bringing something a little extra.”

As businesses throughout the Rogue Valley put on New Year’s Eve events, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is partnering with the Medford Police Department to share the message about the dangers of drunk driving.

“NHTSA and the Medford police want all drivers to remember this life-saving message: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” a news release stated. “In support of the law enforcement community’s dedication to protecting the lives of residents in their communities, you’ll see officers working together ... to take drunk drivers off the roads.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.