Vegas Dave knows what it costs to ring in the new year, Vegas Dave-style.
For more than a decade, the 39-year-old professional sports bettor (real name: Dave Oancea) has routinely spent $20,000 to $30,000 - by his own estimate - on pricey Champagne, the best tables and limo service for the dozen or so friends he parties with in Las Vegas at year's end. The most desirable tables at his favorite clubs might go for $5,000 any other night of the year, but he knows what happens on New Year's Eve: Prices triple.
"You can sit in a terrible area for, like, $5,000 on New Year's - like by the bathroom," he said.
This year, Oancea stayed in - he has a girlfriend now - but across the country, countless people paid a premium to not be home when the ball drops.
Call it surge pricing on bar stools, breadsticks and everything in between. As businesses across the country pick the confetti from their floors, recycle their wine bottles and perhaps tidy up the back of their cabs, everyone from nightclub owners to Uber drivers will be tallying up their earnings from one of night life's most lucrative days of the year.
"New Year's Eve is pretty much going to determine for some venues whether you're going to be in the red or in the black," said J.C. Diaz, executive director of the Nightlife Association, a trade group of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and rave festivals, and also the founder of the Nightlife Hall of Fame. "I would say it's financially imperative that they close out the year with a bang."
Of all the businesses that look to cash in on New Year's Eve, clubs and bars are among the most aggressive, of course. Nightclubs, which already double, triple or even quadruple the price of a bottle of alcohol, often send their prices even higher on Dec. 31.
On a typical night at the nightclub TAO in Las Vegas, for example, partygoers must agree to spend a minimum of $550 to $5,000 to get a table. On New Year's Eve, that minimum ranges from $1,500 to $15,000, according to a spokeswoman, Maggie Rubenstein.
Tickets to TAO and its sister venue, Marquee Nightclub and Dayclub, were set starting at $100 on New Year's Eve, compared with a typical cover charge that starts at $15 for TAO and $25 at Marquee, Rubenstein said.
"New Year's Eve is the biggest night of the year for nightclubs and promoters," said Barak Schurr, the founder and president of Wantickets, an online ticket vendor focused on night life and clubs. Nightclubs and promoters, he said, "try and cast the widest and biggest net they can."
For instance, poolside cabanas at the Fontainebleau in Miami for the Weeknd and Kygo concert sold out for Thursday night on Schurr's website - for about $28,000 each. On a normal night, Wantickets might sell those spots for about a quarter of that price, he said.
The $28,000 also got a party of 15 six bottles of Champagne and liquor and "Red Bull party favors," according to Wantickets.com.
Nightclubs are not the only businesses with dollar signs in their eyes. Airbnb said it expected to break records for bookings in a single day. At the Olive Garden in Times Square, where entrees typically run $20 to $30, revelers could buy a $400 dinner with a full buffet, multiple open bars and a DJ (A year ago, the chain charged $350.) A spokeswoman for Olive Garden, Jessica Dinon, said the New Year's Eve buffet also included unlimited breadsticks.
The Uber ride-hailing service, which has been criticized for charging more during peak periods, earlier this week began bracing customers for surge pricing on the big day. New Year's Eve is the ride service's busiest night of the year, according to a spokeswoman, Molly Spaeth.
"Surge pricing shouldn't be a surprise," the company said on its website as of Thursday afternoon. "Let's toast to you running a fare estimate in the app before you ride."
Uber has its own unique justification for charging a higher price when demand rises: It helps to attract drivers to offer their services when they are most needed.
On an ordinary day, it remains unclear whether surge pricing really entices more drivers to offer rides, according to Chris Nosko, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and co-author of a recent study on Uber's pricing. New Year's Eve might be an exception, though, since drivers might themselves prefer to hang out with friends instead of chauffeuring tipsy, sloppy passengers - unless the price is right.
"I think New Year's is, anecdotally, probably one of the best arguments for surge pricing bringing drivers online," he said. In fact, Nosko said he had been watching as drivers discussed their New Year's Eve plans in online forums.
"I have rubber floors and vinyl-covered seats to deal with people who do manage to smuggle in a drink then spill it," wrote one poster to uberpeople.net, one of the sites Nosko monitors.
Others lamented that the surge pricing on Thursday might not be lucrative enough. "I made $650 last year," wrote one Reddit user who claimed to be a driver in a comment thread about Uber on New Year's Eve. "Don't expect a repeat of those fantastic results, necessarily, but I'll be chasing that dream again tonight for sure!"
Another poster wrote that a year ago, New Year's Day was more lucrative than New Year's Eve because most of the passengers were "nicely low-key cause they were all hung over." This year, the driver planned to give New Year's Eve a pass, and instead "go enjoy the eve. with pals."
Oancea - Vegas Dave, that is - has long done just that, making him a club promoter's dream. New Year's Eve typically followed a pattern: dinner at a nice steakhouse, then a limo to the club, where Vegas Dave said he drank only the finest tequila and Champagne.
By 3 or 4 a.m., he and his friends would usually head to an after-hours club, where they would spend another $5,000 to $10,000 before finally growing weary enough to head home around 7 or 8 a.m. "When I go out," he said, "I go out to go big."
Not everyone can party like Vegas Dave, although some try.
The research firm IBISWorld expects Americans to have spent $26 billion on night life in 2015, and says total revenue has been growing modestly since 2010.
Still, the industry has been hampered by shaky consumer confidence after the recession. Much of the revenue growth can be attributed to higher alcohol prices, rather than higher volume, according to IBISWorld's report.
The various pressures on the industry have pushed club owners to outdo one another, whether it's an indoor waterfall or live acrobats flying above the dance floor. "You can no longer be a big black box with a DJ inside," said Diaz of the night life association. "Especially during the holidays, it's all about being over the top."