With the opening of Raleigh’s “first” social district last week, I feel called upon to insist that Greensboro did it first, which is not something we get to say very often around here.
It’s true. Downtown Greensboro instituted the Boro Social District months ago, a fun zone running along Elm Street from the ballpark to the Union Square campus where you can drink on the street — as long as your drink is in an official Boro cup, no larger than 16 ounces.
The rules in Raleigh will be similar: participating vendors, special cups, well-defined zones of consumption, “economic activity.”
It all conspires to incentivize a privileged drinking class. I’m here to tell you there’s no such thing.
Drinkers are drinkers, and drinking is drinking, whether you’ve got a signature cup with a logo on it or you’re gulping white zin from a Pringles can. The real boozers have been drinking on the sidewalk this whole time — that’s what those little paper bags at the gas station are for — and those on a budget will happily pull those logo cups from a trash can if it means they can enjoy their cocktails al fresco, like everybody else.
Incidentally, drinking on the street is not necessarily a solution to a problem. The entire city of New Orleans is a Social District — you can drink wherever you want, including in your car while it’s speeding down the highway. And while it is a wonderful, magical place, it gets pretty wild after dark.
But what do I know? Drinking itself has changed since I got out of the game more than 10 years ago.
My friends behind the bar tell me that check averages at breweries and restaurants total just a couple drinks per person, that only a few people at a time are getting shitfaced while everyone else lets their beers go warm and flat, that barely anyone has a Jägermeister machine anymore and that, in so many bars, children and dogs are everywhere.
There was a time, believe it or not, when a man who couldn’t drink 10 beers in one sitting would have trouble holding down a job, instead of the other way around.
Now, some of the young people I know don’t have 10 drinks in a month. And when I explain to them what it means to “shotgun” a beer, they look at me like I’m deranged.
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