- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 1999

Jeremiah Cohen has been preparing for New Year’s Eve since June. The general manager of the Tabard Inn Hotel and Restaurant near Dupont Circle has been scheduling staff, ordering champagne, booking bands and sending out confirmations to more than 100 guests that have made reservations for the five-course dinner on the evening ushering in the year 2000.

Unlike some hotels and restaurants that have planned thousand-dollar evenings, the Tabard Inn is asking for $125 a person.

Mr. Cohen, 32, has been managing the business for four years. A former economist, he says he always knew he would end up running the business because he has always loved it.

And for all the loyal customers of the Tabard Inn as well as newcomers who want to make their evening memorable Mr. Cohen is taking extra measures to make Dec. 31, 1999 an unforgettable date.

During a recent interview, Mr. Cohen talked about his plans for New Year’s Eve at the Tabard Inn and the last few months spent preparing for the historic evening.

Question: What is your plan for New Year’s Eve at the Tabard Inn?

Answer: In June, we tried to rent out the whole place to one big group. We were taking bids for a while, although we didn’t have a specific price in mind. One bid was for $42,000 for all the rooms and for the food. It would have been a custom-designed party for 250 people. The $42,000 bid was the best bid we got, but there were 50 children with that party and we decided not to do it.

We are expecting 250 this year. We have a lot of reservations already, a little over half, I would say. We usually sell out and have a waiting list of about 100 people. We sell out of the rooms, too.

I really wanted to rent out the whole place to one big group. I thought that would be easier, but it’s really hard to organize so many people and their friends, I guess.

This year we are doing reservations earlier, and we are sending confirmations. We don’t want to have a problem with people not showing up. Last year, maybe 30 or 40 people didn’t show up. So this year we are taking the reservations, having people fill out forms, faxing them back and forth, and sending them confirmations. It’s a lot more work.

Q: What events do you usually organize at the Tabard Inn for New Year’s Eve?

A: We usually do a sit-down dinner, a four- or five-plates dinner. We have drinks, dancing, a band. Last year, we got this bluesy-swing band from Georgia and people really liked them.

This year, we are going to add studio-quality photographs for people that come to the dinner. That way they have a nice photo of the night and the New Year’s Eve experience. So two weeks after the dinner, you’ll get a nice photo mailed to your house. It’s not rambunctious. It’s just going to be a fun party.

We are getting a tent for the patio, to set up sort of a millennium theme outside, where one of the bands is going to be. And bands are in such high demand right now. We had to book those six months in advance.

Q: What kind of planning goes into organizing a millennium party?

A: A lot. I had to delegate responsibility to everyone. I had to make sure the bartender gets a lot of champagne. And there there were staffing needs. I had to do that a couple of months in advance, to make sure we had the staff we needed. It’s about 30, 40 people. I had to make sure people were going to work that night.

It wasn’t difficult getting employees for the evening. We are like a big family here, so a lot of the people want to spend New Year’s here. This is sort of their extended family. So it wasn’t difficult. We want to please the customers on New Year’s Eve and make it pleasant for the staff as well.

Q: How much of an investment is this millennium dinner?

A: It’s a huge investment. But we do huge events for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day, too, so we are used to it. We’ve been doing this for 25 years, too. It’s not a lot to do, but this party is twice as much as other New Year’s parties.

It’s like doing a wedding, but for a lot of people that don’t know each other.

Q: What kind of advertising have you done for this event?

A: We don’t do advertising at all. The Tabard Inn is internationally known. People have had nice experiences here in the past, and they come back over and over again.

There are several people coming this year that have been here in the past. Two couples that got married here I think it was in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s and they are coming back.

And there is this guy that has to have the table by the kitchen door because that’s where he proposed to his wife a few years ago. So this is a very special night for him. He is reliving the moment.

So those are a few examples of people coming back. Other people are here every New Year’s Eve. So we don’t advertise. Everything is word of mouth or return customers. It’s sort of a nice model.

Q: Are you renting rooms along with the dinner?

A: The rooms are separate from that, but yes, people are certainly doing that. It’s about $200 to $300 for both the room and dinner.

We also have large groups of people, 15 or so, who are having a party together, which is nice.

Everyone has their own unique New Year’s version, but for certain core groups of people in this city and a lot of people from New York and North Carolina, D.C. is the place. For North Carolina, I think it’s the closest big metropolitan area.

And a lot of New Yorkers want to get away from New York that’s a significant number of people.

Q: Do you have any fears of the year-2000 bug?

A: Do I have fears of a power outage? That the Visa card machine won’t be working? No. I am not worried.

Some places are making sure everyone pays cash because of fears that financial institutions may not work, and things may be breaking down, but I am not worried about that.

Q: Are you buying into the millennium hype?

A: Sort of, but not in a 100 percent hyper way. But I do think it’s neat, and it would be a nice experience at the Tabard Inn. This building was built in the 1800s, so it is entering its third century. When you think about it, that’s kind of amazing. There is a lot of history here. So from a historic point of view, it is really neat. And it’s also our 25th anniversary next April.

My father died a few weeks ago, on Nov. 3. And he founded this place. He saved the building from demolition in 1975 and a lot of this is in honor of him. Because this inn was supposed to be torn down.

In the early ‘70s hotels were not valued, commercial office space was really important then, so this was going to be just another downtown office building. But my father, using his determination to save something historic, stopped the demolition with the help of some of the neighbors. And 25 years later, it’s a successful business with an international following.

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