After 14 years in the saloon business, I think I have a fairly good, if cynical, take on the dark side of the booze business. Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Mendocino counties form a quartet of the highest percentage of problem drinkers in the state. Booze defines our economy and culture. Don’t be fooled by the soft vs. hard liquor myth. A standard drink of beer, wine and distilled spirits each contains the same amount of absolute alcohol.
There was a time when you needed to serve a modicum of food to get a beer and wine license. Not anymore. How about free wine and beer in your no-food barber shop or hair salon? Check the lady spending hundreds to add some hair extensions taken from the head of an orphan in a Third World country while knocking back a glass of $50-a-bottle Cab. Hair salon/saloon reviews now include how a Chardonnay pairs with a bob cut. Why not free booze at your tattoo parlor or nail saloon or laundromat? A touch of craft beer at your used bookstore? Why not “wine flavored” yogurt?
What if the econo-SMART train becomes a wino train to “enhance” its revenue? The wine train was born to lose money, and now it wants to drink its way out of bankruptcy? Train attendants with full benefits in “smart” new outfits, serving wine and beer. Start drinking in Cloverdale, carry your glass over to the ferry in Larkspur. A person could be three drinks drunk by the time they get to the ferry building.
Booze in a theater near you. Time was, serving popcorn and candy was a good job for a teenager. Now you have to be over 21 to serve a glass or bottle of wine to a 21-year-old guy so he can take it into the theater and share it with his 17-year-old girl-friend. Same guy can share his beers (in the dark) with his underage buddies. And how about the lady lush who just spilled her drink (giggle-giggle)—pardon me while I go out and get a refill. Take your child to a “G” movie and knock back a (“What are you drinking daddy?”) glass or two.
The ABC doesn’t, and won’t have, enough agents to police this runaway booze train/barbershop/movie debacle. You want to “enhance” revenue? Free or not, just start drinking more wine and beer and get a “drink local” card for extra points.
Neil E. Davis lives in Sebastopol and owned Sausalito’s Bar With No Name Bar from 1959 to 1974.
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