For many Richmonders the arrival of Christmas Day plays out like jazzy spirited carols on the Vince Guaraldi Trio's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It has that same seemingly effortless lilt. You can almost see Snoopy twinkling atop Linus' piano. Shaken out of slumber by a niece or nephew, you amble to the tree. You nestle in the den with family to spend the better part of the day. The circle draws close for the annual frenzy of gift-wrap torn open. Afterward, you eat a holiday breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes. You are reminded how tasty maple syrup is. But as the afternoon wanes so can your contentment. You grow restless. The chatter that before was endearing now whirls in cacophony. It's time to check the movie listings. You have company at the movies - lots of it. Most theaters are busy. To escape to the movies is to escape cabin fever. When escaping the house on Christmas, why be so hidebound? This year, instead of joining the herd at a megaplex, pull together a holiday school reunion. Call up former classmates you haven't seen in months or years and entice them to meet you for a different kind of evening out. The late, lamented Soble's used to be the only place open on Christmas night. By midnight, the Fan restaurant and bar would be so packed you'd have to huddle outside and wriggle your way in. But this year, more places appear to be tapping in on Yuletide cheer and the promise of tips galore. "It's one of our busiest nights," says Wayne Pope of Casablanca restaurant and bar on East Grace Street. The gay-friendly club opens at 8 p.m. because that's when "people have done the family thing and they want to come out and get loose," Pope adds. "We're definitely a new tradition." If any place has taken over the Soble's full-house Christmas-night tradition, it's Avalon, located just a block west on Main Street. "People do just want to get away from their parents. It makes you wonder why," jests Avalon owner Ron Houck. The restaurant and bar opens at 8 p.m. on Christmas night. Houck says the staff actually looks forward to working. "Waitresses and bartenders lose tips over the holidays," he says. "It's a good way for them to make some back." Fox & Hounds British Pub in South Richmond also is open for those who want to shoot a game of pool, listen to live music or throw darts. "We're open 365," says a bartender who declines to give his name. "Are we open? You don't even have to think about it. Christmas is one of our biggest nights because everything else over here is closed." And some restaurants and bars like the new Surfish Station in the Museum District are eager to snag a slice of the Christmas-night pie. "Soble's isn't here anymore, so we're hoping to pull in some of that business," says manager Holly Green. Christmas falls on a Monday, a day many restaurants close anyway. Rather than commit to open on Christmas, many hot spots are taking a wait-and-see approach. The list includes Sidewalk Café, Bandito's Burrito Lounge, Devil's Kitchen, The Triple, Sticky Rice, South Richmond's Rock Falls Tavern, and Shockoe Bottom's Tiki Bob's and The Bottom Line. A phone call first is advised. Still, most wait staff and bartenders cringe at the thought of working on Christmas. After all, they'd like to venture out, too. A worker at Shockoe Bottom's Glory Days gets the prize for the cleverest response: "Are we open on Christmas night? Ho, ho, ho, ho! No, no, no, no!" Where you can go Christmas night: Avalon Restaurant and Bar - 2619 W. Main St. 353-9709. Awful Arthur's - 7408 W. Broad St. 67-AWFUL. Breaker's Sports Grill - 9127 W. Broad St. 270-1461. Casablanca - 6 E. Grace St. 648-2040. Commercial Taphouse - 111 N. Robinson St. 359-6544. Fox & Hounds British Pub - 10455 Midlothian Turnpike. 272-8309. Surfish Station - 2905 Patterson Ave. 354-9000. TJ's at the Jefferson Hotel - 788-8000.
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