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News From the Front

The Battle for the Bars

Sweet mother of Jesus, these are difficult times for drunks. Every time I turn on the TV, some new treachery shoots down  the pike. First the police in Texas, working hand-in-hand with MADD, raid bars across the state and arrest over 1700 citizens for, yes, being drunk in a bar. Thankfully, they have since suspended the program, probably because the tourist board thought that, hey, arresting tourists in hotel bars for drinking might drive away some trade. Nevertheless, they have promised to crank it back up, once the outrage dies down.

Then comes a report that towns across the country, prodded by MADD, are looking to get rid of Happy Hour and force bars to close earlier, much as they’re doing all across Europe.

Finally, and closer to home, a gang of treacherous nanny-staters, Republicans and Democrats alike, ramrodded a smoking ban through the Colorado Statehouse, banning smoking from nearly every public building, including bars, private clubs and even VFW halls. Casinos were spared the ban, and why not? They have a well-funded lobby. The mom-and-pop bars, who can’t afford to bribe politicians, never mind build smoking patios, will bear the brunt of the smoker’s exodus that tends to follow. It happens in every state that passes a ban—the dives and just-getting-by bars go under and are taken over by goddamn yuppies who can afford to make the improvements. And suddenly half the bars resemble Starbucks with taps.

Now, I know there are some drinkers out there who welcome the smoking ban. Second-hand smoke is smelly and dangerous, after all (though I have to point out that the EPA  mangled its standards and cherry picked their data for that report), but they’re missing the point. Bars are supposed to be a little dangerous (and smelly for that matter). It’s part of their charm.

The Great American Bar is—or was—the last place you could indulge in the legal vices,  a sanctuary from the smothering rules of an ever more restrictive society. Presently it is under siege. The nanny-staters and the government have got their feet in the door and are presently sniffing around for other things they consider dangerous. Like drinking.

If the raids in Texas weren’t enough to convince you, consider this—The European Union is about to release a report condemning and suggesting action against “passive drinking.” Because, you know, once you drink that beer you’re a menace to society, a walking time bomb.

The way things are going, in ten years our bars will resemble sterile hospital waiting rooms, where they’ll serve you one 3.2 beer in a Dixie cup then call the cops.

Unless, of course, we start standing up for what’s ours. And what’s more ours than our bars?

Frank Kelly Rich

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