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‘Blackout Wednesday’ opens Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago area

The CrossRoads Bar & Grill at 1120 W. Madison St. brought in extra servers on Wednesday to help out with the pre-Thanksgiving crowd. | Mitchell Armentrout, Sun-Times

The stress of spending the long Thanksgiving weekend with bickering family members can be enough to drive some people to drink.

For others, it can drive them to start the drinking a day early.

“It’s going to take more than this to get me through the weekend,” Jim Placzkowski said between swigs of Guinness on Wednesday evening at The CrossRoads Bar & Grill in the West Loop.

He was one of thousands of people hitting bars on the night before Thanksgiving, part of a phenomenon that has turned into a tradition of its own in recent years. Alternately referred to as “Blackout Wednesday, “Drinksgiving” or simply Thanksgiving Eve, the combination of college students on break and most others having a few days off work has helped turn it into one of the busiest drinking nights on the calendar.

“It helps that Thanksgiving dinner is about the best hangover cure imaginable,” said Placzkowski, who emphasized that he was just toasting the end of the work week — no blackout intended.

CrossRoads bartender Stephanie Dunn noted that the serious Turkey Day pre-games typically take place in the suburbs.

“But we’ve still got some extra servers working tonight in case things get busy,” she said.

RELATED: 1 in 3 Americans dreads political talk at Thanksgiving: poll

The unofficial boozy holiday has been decried by anti-drunken driving organizations for its consequences on the busiest travel days of the year.

More than 800 people died in alcohol-related crashes across the country during Thanksgiving weekends between 2012 and 2016, making it one of the most deadly holiday weekends on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Eleven died on Illinois roads over last year’s holiday weekend.

“It’s not too late to stop this ‘tradition,’ which only started to gain notoriety a few years ago,” the nonprofit Mothers Against Drunk Driving said in a statement promoting its #HomeForTheHolidays campaign.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said additional officers were being deployed for the weekend.

“People can expect to see more uniformed police officers in high-traffic areas, transit hubs, airports and major thoroughfares,” he said.