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Downtown Raleigh hotels fear economy will dampen New Year's

At The Oakwood Inn, business in down 15 percent. Sales are also down at the nearby Clarion Hotel. Last-minute First Night revelers could be in luck when looking for rooms.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Businesses that count on people to go out on the town on New Year's Eve are concerned that tough economic times may mean more merry-makers will mark the end of 2008 at home.

“Usually we have people who want to come into downtown that don’t want to drive home and don’t want to go someplace far from downtown,” said Doris Jurkiewicz, innkeeper at The Oakwood Inn.

This year, though, business at The Oakwood, at 411 N. Bloodworth St., is down about 15 percent, Jurkiewicz said.

“I think a lot of people are frightened off” because they are afraid to spend extra in the current economy, Jurkiewicz said.

Jurkiewicz is hoping for late bookings for Wednesday night.

“Lots of times, people do call last minute, so it could be full by then,” she said.

Sales are also down at the nearby Clarion Hotel on Hillsborough Street. Last year at this time, about 90 percent of the rooms were booked. Officials said this year the hotel is 50 percent booked.

The annual First Night Raleigh celebration is expected to attract 50,000 to 60,000 revelers on New Year’s Eve.

A new restaurant, The Oxford Gastropub, at 319 Fayetteville St., will be enjoying its first year in the center of the action.

“It’s unbelievable. It is really a great treat to have that and a great advantage for us to really showcase what we have,” general manager Scott Steinsberger said.