Drinking in public is an odd thing. It carries with it the same thrill inherent in any shucking of social norms or rules. It is a defiant act fraught with danger but promising the sweet reward of a buzz in a unique location, exciting if only in its new role as a backdrop to your sidewalk sipper.
The lone wolf.
The walls of the patio cannot contain you. You are taking this drink to go. Conveniently, once the thrill wears off and the reality sets in that you are now essentially just a drunken vagrant, you have your drink to slow your spiraling depression.
The idea that alcohol should only be consumed behind closed doors or fenced-in patios is a relatively new concept. It arose as a solution to the problem of removing drunk, homeless, or otherwise “undesirable” people from the streets after laws against public drunkenness and vagrancy were deemed constitutionally unsound. Banning the act of drinking in public, as opposed to being drunk in public, was not only constitutionally sound but wholly enforceable by police. This sea change happened throughout the ’60s and ’70s and by the ’80s most cities had the new law on the books. If you are old enough to be reading this, it is likely that your parents could drink anywhere they pleased. Just imagine them walking down the street with a can of beer in hand ruining the economy and destroying the environment.
Recently, the Ohio House passed a bill allowing “refreshment areas” to be established in exemption to the current laws, which would unfortunately remain intact otherwise. While the Arena District is the likely refreshment-area-to-be here in Columbus, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to put forth some suggestions for alternate drinking zones and scenarios. Now I’m not stupid enough to admit here that I’ve actually participated in any sort of illegal public drinking. I have never consumed half a bottle of rosé from a to-go coffee cup while walking around a Dublin neighborhood, or disguised an enormous daiquiri as a cup of Starbucks iced tea and sipped on it at the Grandview pool. If I had done any of that, I would tell you that both experiences were spectacular in their own unique way, just as many of these suggestions, should we choose to legalize them, would be.
Of course, if we did allow these activities, some people wouldn’t be forced to go to such extremes, like taping the bladder of a box of wine to a chosen friend and pouring a glass from the spout in the general area of his belly button. I’m surely not suggesting you do that the next time you go to Holiday Hop in the Short North. That would be illegal. Allow me to be as clear as possible in saying that I am not encouraging you to pack a flask full of Negroni cocktails when you visit the Whetstone Park of Roses to stroll among the blooming flowers on a warm spring day. That would be irresponsible. Instead, I am merely suggesting that a negroni stand could and should be erected in the park for the enjoyment of all our citizens. Oddfellows’ recent expansion to a shipping container could provide an example of a solution to our lack of Negronis at the park. Perhaps the city could ship the container down to Clintonville during the warmer months, and then no flower-gazing Columbusonian would be without a Negroni slushy. Boom. Talk about a refreshment area.
Alternately, our Topiary Garden, located on the former grounds of the deaf school park in the beautiful Discovery District, is an ideal locale for getting familiar with a cheap 30-pack. If the city would see to the construction of a large walk-in cooler, much like the beer caves located in our gas stations and grocery stores, many a Sunday afternoon could be spent stumbling among the plant statues meant to recreate Georges Seurat’s post-impressionist masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. It really hits home when you realize we are just one beer cave away from this reality. Just one cave.
Once our post-impressionist paradise has been realized, we could move on to even loftier goals. I’d like to introduce to you all the idea of the “Roving Refreshment Area.” Perhaps some of you can guess where I’m going with this, but RRA would solve a problem faced by literally hundreds of people each year. Under the current system, when you book a Taco Truck Tour with Columbus Food Adventures, you are expected to eat multiple tacos, tortas, and tamales without the promise of a Modelo, Pacifico, or even Corona to wash it all down. The RRA would allow a special exemption for tortilla-based tourism, allowing anyone eating at any taco truck—yes even the ones on the north side—to consume Mexican lager in public parking lots.
These are just a few ideas of my own creation, and I’m sure many of you reading at home can come up with some of your own. I encourage you to do so, and to make your voice heard. In closing, I would like to express my gratitude to the city and the state for reading along with me as I have illustrated some possibilities for our brave new boozing world. The legislation, as it stands, would not allow for many of the solutions I have outlined; however, there is still time for the senate to make necessary corrections before voting to approve the plan. I am confident that if just one of these plans was put into action, the City of Columbus would be a little better for it. State senators, members of city council, Mayor Coleman, Governor John Kasich—until you truly listen to your constituents and understand our needs, this city won’t move forward. We’ll just keep “Irishing up” our coffee while walking to brunch, cabrewing the Olentangy, and drinking wine out of Diet Coke cans in Franklin Park, just like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia taught us. •