LAKEVIEW — Chicago Comics has had Twelve Bars of Chrismas 2013, or TBOX, on their calendar for quite a while now — unlike last year, when they were "blindsided" by the hoardes of Christmas sweater-wearing bargoers who ultimately broke their window.
This year, owner Eric Kirsammer said the store at 3224 N. Clark St. will be staffing an extra person Saturday, just to be more aware of what's going on down the street.
"We're hoping for the best, basically," Kirsammer said.
Last year's TBOX, the biggest one in 17 years, led to complaints of noise, trash and vomiting on the street, and by the end of the night, a man had been stabbed by a broken beer bottle.
For this year's event, organizer Festa Parties more than doubled the security, added portable toilets and hired an all-day private clean-up service in hopes of better crowd control.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) also said in his newsletter to constituents Friday that there will be a command center at 1106 W. Eddy St. where residents can go with any issues. People can also call 773-406-1421 or 708-935-7233 to reach on-site staff with any complaints.
As far as prep goes, some small business owners like Kirsammer — without the budget for personal security — are simply crossing their fingers.
"Besides being nervous and cautious and worried and dreading it," said Ronda Pilon, co-owner of Bookworks, "no, we're not doing anything special. We really can't afford security."
The used bookstore, 3444 N. Clark St., will stay open "to have a presence" during the event, Pilon said. She loves being in Wrigleyville most of the time, but TBOX is "scary," she said.
"They are literally out of control. Out of control," Pilon said.
Despite last year's craziness, many of the bars aren't changing their strategy much. Several bar employees considered incidents like the stabbing an isolated event that can be prevented with strong door policies and in-house security — things that should be practiced regularly, anyway.
That said, a special strategy is required for TBOX. At Mullen's, 3527 N. Clark St., staff will be tripled for the event, said manager Bill Hohenadel. The bar also organized special ice delivery and midday garbage pick-up in preparation, he said.
"It's definitely not business as usual," Hohenadel said. "It's one of the biggest days of the year. We step up and put a lot more into this day."
Deuces and the Diamond Club is using only plastic cups instead of glass, and security is a little more robust this year with the expectation that TBOX will be more robust too, said manager Jasper Robinson.
Plus, the extra security from Festa Parties should help with weed out TBOX crashers looking to get into bars, said general manager Ari Strauss at Sluggers, 3540 N. Clark St.
In fact, with more than 50 bars in this year's TBOX, versus last year's 43, Strauss said he thinks the bars may not be as busy due to a wider spread.
"I hope I'm wrong," he said.
For Quinta Lee, an employee at Einstein Bros Bagel, 3455 N. Clark St., prep for this year's TBOX involves two things: food and "pain pills."
Like Kirsammer, she was caught off-guard by the business of last year's event. She didn't eat beforehand, and by the time the shop closed, a big headache set in.
"I'll be more prepared this year," she said. "I'm going to eat me something, and I'm going to eat enough ibuprofen to get me through the rest of the day."