Before we go any further, let's stipulate this: I do not care what you do on your time and dime so long as it does not affect me. What to drink around the world at Epcot? If you can afford it and not trouble anyone else while you do it, go ahead. Want to go through Halloween Horror Nights with a boozy slushy in a blinky cup attached to your lips? Keep your hands and your comments to yourself, and I do not care.
An editor of mine long ago told me that he refused to believe that alcohol was a drug. He said it was just food. But like so many other things that human beings have corrupted over the centuries, it all depends upon how we use it. Some theme park fans would never think of abusing alcohol to the point of becoming drunk and disorderly while in public. But for other fans, getting crocked to that point *is* the point of drinking.
Unfortunately for the "booze is food" crowd, the nasty drunks often force businesses and communities to limit or ban the consumption of alcohol, in an effort to avoid the problems that the drunks can cause. We told you earlier this month about Universal Orlando's new restrictions on the sale of mixed drinks at Halloween Horror Nights — a move that no one disputes came in response to continued incidents of drunken misbehavior by a few guests at the event.
The change, which came about at the last minute (Universal had promoted more expansive alcohol sales on its blog a few days before the event started), sparked a flame war on Facebook groups for Universal fans. But just as that seemed to be dying down, The Orlando Sentinel jumped in to throw a gallon of Everclear onto the fire.
In a column entitled The Halloween Horror Nights Drinking Game [the headline has been changed in this cached version, which otherwise remains as originally published], The Sentinel basically encouraged the type of drinking-for-drinking's-sake behavior that Universal seemed to be trying to stop.
I cannot wait to hear the inside story of what happened when Universal executives saw the story. But whatever went down, The Sentinel walked back the piece, changing it from a drinking game into a description of a scavenger hunt. (Yeah, right.) And Universal followed up with a blog post of its own, Let's Keep Horror Nights Fun and Safe, written by the resort's head of PR, in which he took the highly unusual act (in this business, at least) of calling out The Sentinel's piece.
Let's run through all my disclosures and conflicts here: Obviously, I run a website that covers the theme park industry and have worked with Universal's PR people for years. But I also worked for years teaching journalism at a university, where I edited an internationally-recognized journalism review that required me to evaluate and comment upon others' practice of journalism. I currently write a weekly column for a newspaper chain that competes with The Sentinel's Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing) in some markets, including in my home of Southern California. And I've been quoted as a source in countless Sentinel stories over the years, and even did a consulting speaking gig for them many years ago.
So you should know where I am coming from when I say... what the f--- was The Sentinel thinking on this one?
Many of my colleagues in the newspaper business fret that local journalism does not get enough credit for making an impact in communities. Well, remember this incident when Universal says "the heck with this" and switches Halloween Horror Nights to beer and wine only next year. Local journalism can make a difference!
The real question is...
Why hasn’t Universal Orlando moved to a TWO DRINK MAXIMUM wrist band?
Universal has had extensive conversations about drink maximums, but they always end with...
We CAN’T LIMIT our biggest profit center!
Taking something away never made it less. But in the end Universal (and Disney) can enforce their own rules and should do as they see fit. They are in their right and I'm sure lose money while doing it. But it's a shame for the responsible guest who like a stiff drink now and then.
On a personal note, I don't understand why someone would pay a huge entrance fee to pay even more to get waisted. I think these people have a serious problem and should find help.
Many of us like to drink, and it's not as much fun for us if we don't have the option. This is one reason Disneyland excels over Disneyworld--you're never more than a five minute walk away from the bars of Downtown Disney, or, if you stay at a Disney hotel, the pool bar.
We take our kids twice a year to Disney, and we have drinks every day. It's never been a problem for anyone, including us, because we don't flail. We drink, we have a good time, the only difference between us and the teetotalers is maybe our breath.
Bottom line: if people are acting obnoxious, they should be exited from the park. But the reason for their obnoxious behavior is irrelevant. I know people who can have 10 drinks and be cool as a cucumber; I know people who are full time jerks irrespective of what they're drinking or eating.
The problem is not the drinks. The problem, if one exists, is bad behavior. But the two have no connection beyond that point (unless you're the sort of self-righteous person who can't hold your booze and assumes everyone is like you).
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