Monday, May 4, 2009

A tipsy town

Louisiana has some of the most permissive alcohol laws in the country - a big adjustment for a girl from Ontario, where alcohol is somewhat-strictly controlled by the government. In New Orleans, it's true, the party never ends and many bars (especially in the Quarter) are open 24 hours a day.

Alcohol of any strength can be sold in drugstores, convenience stores, gas stations and supermarkets without restriction which forces a competition in prices that I admit to occasionally enjoying. Nothing like buying three bottles of wine for ten dollars from the grocery bargain bin of odds and ends.

My biggest shock came when I discovered that many of the local daiquiri shops offered drive up windows for the convenience of their customers. The official rule is that the driver is supposed to wait until they get to where they are going to put the straw in the drink but this isn't a common practice from what I can tell.

One things I will definitely miss when I leave New Orleans is the good old to-go cup. Every bar in this city has a stack of plastic cups by the door that you can pour your drink into should you like to try a different bar down the way or if you just want to hang out on the street - which is where the real party is at on Bourbon. This to-go rule is the same for every place, from the dive to the fine dining establishment. If you so choose, at the fanciest joints in town you can drink a sip from your bottle of the best and then take the rest with you to enjoy in the surroundings of your choice.

Now I should say at this point, that while I, like anybody, enjoy the perks of these kind of alcohol laws, they definitely have their consequences. You can't jam that many people into an area as small as Bourbon street and give them unrestricted access to a continuous stream of alcohol without things imploding somewhat. New Orleans is now officially the crime capital of America: a population of 250,000 with 209 murders last year, and I personally believe that alcohol is a factor in many problems in the city. Addiction is a common theme in almost every story I hear down here and alcoholism is a disease that's awfully hard to recover from in a place like the Big Easy, where any occasion is celebrated with a clinking of glasses.

I don't want to end this post on a negative note. New Orleans is a fun and vibrant place and its leniency towards the booze is just another thing that makes it like no place on earth. RJ would like to add here that he's not sure if he can live in a place where it's not socially acceptable to drink by the roadside at 9 am. Ah... good times.

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