Posted By Norm van Maastricht on December 27, 2008
Another segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon In The Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails…
A singular year…
A singular event…
A lasting effect…
George Bush (the elder) is president, Dan Quayle vice…
Gas is 1.22 a gallon.
First class postage was a quarter.
The first Gulf War will kick off in August
Dances With Wolves will take best picture that year.
And California passed a new law lowering the blood-alcohol limit.
“…California laws lowering the legal definition of DUI impairment to 0.08% BAC and requiring the immediate license suspension of persons violating that law have proven to be effective in reducing the incidence of alcohol-involved accidents, according to a recent California Department of Motor Vehicles’ Research and Development Branch publication. In 1990, the 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit and administrative license suspension laws were implemented in California and were expected to have a large potential for reducing the incidence of drunk driving. At the time, California was only the fourth state to introduce such a low BAC limit…”
Turn up the lights, the party’s over. Well, not over…just severely wet blanketed.
The new law was immediately and vigorously enforced and the effects were brutal to the drinking populace.
What used to get you an overnight in jail and a hefty fine now got you jail, license restriction, heavy fines, legal fees and Traffic School.
Overnight, it got inconvenient and very expensive to get pulled over for a DUI.
Some, of course, kept on keeping on, gambling on getting caught. Some of them never got caught. The ones who got caught were very often the ones who said “They’ll never catch me.” But some did get caught and the horror stories abounded…
“Designated drivers” was tried out. This particular duty posting was educational when it came to seeing other people getting drunk while the D/D cannot. But it worked. Except in cases where the D/D got bored and had “just a couple”…
Since two beers just about put you at the edge and the hard liquor offerings being even more potent, the end result was that people couldn’t risk getting inebriated.
So they spent less when they went out.
This meant less money to be made in the Saloon business…
True, there is a morality at work here. Carrie Nation’s WCTU is still with us in spirit.
The idea is to keep the drunk driver off the road and as such it is a good idea. Drinking and driving is responsible for a lot of annual agony for a lot of people
Sure enough, toward that end, the new BAC limit worked and the numbers showed it.
But it really didn’t keep drunk drivers off the road. But there were less of them.
However, the problem with drunk drivers is that they really think they can drive drunk.
Science hasn’t found a cure for that yet. Ya can’t fix stupidity.
Some ‘drunks’ can drive, obviously because not all drunk drivers (using the new .08 rule) get into accidents, get busted or get arrested. Some people, it could be said, were not all-over-the-road drunk if they tested to be .09. Technically, legally, ’drunk’ but still very functional.
Unfortunately there are some seriously disfunctional drunks who drive regardless of fines, suspensions or probation. The only thing that will keep those guys off the road is death or jail.
We could try prohibition again but that didn’t work the first time around and there was ample doubt it will survive another trial.
After all that is said and done the fact remains that saloons are a business and this new law had a real impact on everyone who worked in the industry. And it seemed to affect the media, too.
Suddenly the fun and friendly drunk was no longer an entertaining thing to have as a character on TV. Writers put fewer of them in scripts.
In the latter part of the twentieth century you had “show biz” people like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin rightly calling themselves ‘saloon singers’. They both made fortunes doing it. The glass in one hand, cigarette in the other always in a tuxedo or expensive suit. The image was promoted as something to ascribe to, to mimic, to join. But few people had the opportunity to see Frank and Dean in a caberet. Even fewer had a cabaret to go to that warranted a tuxedo so the Sinatra/Martin Vegas swinger look was largely fantasy.
“Cheers” the sitcom based on a saloon, closed in 1993. True, it went into syndication but it closed its doors.
It was almost as if your parents had come home, caught you being bad and really put The Clamp on drinkage as punishment.
One of the regular Liar’s Dice players was a defense attorney who let it be known that handling DUI’s was his specialty and enjoyed the position of drinking heartily and playing dice with those destined to be his clients. The Bar became his office in some ways.
No matter what kind of morality is at stake here, the fact remains that the legal limit being tied to .08 BAC had a definite impact on the income of saloons like The Bar.
One part of the industry fought back and is still fighting as of this writing.
The beer guys.
Gone are the tuxedoes. Now it’s jeans, a turned around baseball cap to cover the bald spot, am untucked tee shirt to cover the bulge and navel lint and a Budweiser. The brand may vary but the message in the commercials is the same. The guy who drinks this stuff and dresses that way is the guy who gets the babes.
Beer advertisers have divided the world into two camps.
One group is the football loving beer drinkers and the people who drive Detroit’s gas guzzling T-Rex’s, the pickup trucks and SUV’s.
The other group is ‘Everybody Else.’
And it is the first group who control the sports industry and sports channels. Because it is those people who control the Remote.
The beauty of this to the breweries is that the beer drinker might be at the event itself but far more of them are usually at home watching the game on TV. All drinking beer.
Some “sports bars” draw business based on sports but it now took a close race between teams to make the customer risk driving home from a bar after sitting for three and a half hours drinking beer with the New Law in effect.
But the guy drinking at home doesn’t have to worry about that.
A saloon does worry about it. They have to because the guy at home is not spending money in the saloons including The Bar.
A second salvo to the industry was the record/play visual media… the rise of the VCR. and it’s offspring the DVD.
The effect this New Toy had on the business took longer to impact. In fact it just kinda slid in there on the sneak…
We let it in because, hey, you could record shows to watch at another time. You could record a favorite show, go out and party and watch the favorite show later. Helluva deal!
It seemed like an innocent thing that blossomed into a meteoric success.
But the new machine had a more compelling trick.
Now you could actually rent a recent movie, order a pizza delivery and watch the movie from home!
This meant you didn’t have to get dressed, drive, spend money on a dinner… pay cover charge and pay more money for alchohol per drink that you could have at home much, much cheaper.
You didn’t have to risk rejection or otherwise complicating your life or risk embarrassing yourself. No traffic problems, parking hassles and best of all, no cops…no DUI hassles.
And if you had a squeeze, a lover, why, watching a movie at home put you near a bed. Very handy if the Carnal Urge came upon you. There was the plus of your being able to pause the movie while you indulged in joyful fornication or made a trip to the fridge or to the john…
So what Satchel Paige called “the social ramble” was curtailed.
True, sitting on the couch at home couldn’t match the fun and excitement of The Bar on a good band night… the pheremonic smells in the air, the noise and the lights, the extremely flattering glow of dim lights and candles on the tables that do wonders to a girl’s makeup… the loud bands, their sound deafening yet at the same time comforting. The dancing… feeling and being felt…
People still went out, to taste that, to remember that, but as they got older they went out less. They got married. Stayed home more. Whoever said two could live as cheaply as one was a damn liar and one of the first budget cuts made in a household funding is usually Entertainment.
Things changed in the Saloon business…
You still had your crop of new drinkers but they were more cautious and post-college carousing suddenly lost its appeal in light of the promised pillorying that a DUI would bring. And to catch the new batch you had to find a way to adapt to them without alienating your “regulars”, a daunting task and a largely impossible one because musical tastes change and the new guy’s music is seldom appreciated by ‘the regulars’ And your ‘regulars’ are getting older.
How did that happen?
A saloon’s life is short. They peak fast.
You only have a little time to be The New Kid On The Block and suddenly, it seems, you start pining for ‘the good old days’.
A dry season is upon the Serengeti of Saloondom
And the new law guaranteed that a Saloon, be it New Kid or Fogeybar, was going to have a smaller, more cautious herd to feed on.