Vice Squad
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Alcohol-Free Zone in Mobile's Mardi Gras

Everyone has heard about the crazy goings-on in Mobile, Alabama, during the Mardi Gras festivities. [Actually, it's News Orleans that people know about; you mean they celebrate Mardi Gras in Mobile, too? -- ed.] This year the Mobile city authorities have declared two blocks of the parade route to be an alcohol-free zone. They apparently didn't enforce the geographically-constrained alcohol ban during its first week of existence, but did so (lightly but effectively) the second week. Now Mardi Gras festivities are not intended to be vice-free affairs. Nevertheless, I applaud these sorts of efforts. They impose little or no cost upon those who wish to drink, as all the would-be imbibers have to do is stand anywhere else along the parade route. But such zones do provide some comfort to those who want to ensure that their kids or grandparents don't end up standing next to raucous, drunken Grasians. (Sometimes stadia have alcohol-free sections, too; I have supported those ever since I attended an international soccer match where an entire section -- my section, of course, as empathy is not my strong point -- was put at risk by a couple of raucous, drunken spectators.)

One other point about the Mobile goings-on that is worth a mention is that open containers of alcohol are illegal throughout the city, even during Mardi Gras. The acceptance of alcohol during Mardi Gras is an enforcement decision -- like the Dutch toleration of personal use of marijuana. So the alcohol-free zones actually represent the de jure rule itself, in the form of the exception to the exception. [Finally, despite the editor's snide comment, let me mention that I once attended a conference in Mobile and found it to be a charming place, complete with a museum devoted to Mobile-native Henry Aaron.]

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