BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s a Thanksgiving Eve tradition in Bakersfield. Hundreds of Kern residents flock to local Basque restaurants … for a night on the town before spending the holiday with family. This comes after the pandemic sidelined the tradition for a year. Local restaurant owners say the pre-Thanksgiving surges gives a boost to business, which is especially important after nearly two years spent battling the pandemic.

“We’re going to have lunch. We’ve had lunch for about 20 years together, the day before. It’s great,” said Kern resident Rich Krizo. “Once you’ve been gone and away from people for a whole year, it’s just rekindling all the friendships again.”

Local restaurant owners say tonight is one of the busiest nights of the year. Wool Growers in East Bakersfield expects to see 25% more traffic than usual.

“All of our reservations are full for the evening,” said Christiane Camou, Co-owner of Wool Growers. “The kitchen is at max capacity. But as far as diners go, We’ll serve about 500 dinners tonight.”

This comes as nationwide food and labor shortages make it harder for restaurants to put meals on your plate.

“It’s frustrating,” said Camou. “Because sometimes the customers will come and they want lamb chops, and we’re having a difficult time getting lamb chops. We just never experienced that in the past. So thanks to COVID, things have changed.”

But not everything has changed.

“Today is a special day for us, and for everybody,” said Joe Coscrart, Manager of Wool Growers. “A lot of people, they only see once a year. So they know if they come here, they’ll see each other.”

Some also call today ‘drinksgiving’ … so make sure to use rideshare services like Uber if you plan to have a glass of wine, or three, for Thanksgiving Eve.