There may not be a war on live music, go-cups, and late nights, but recent decisions fuel those anxieties.

go-cup photo
From AfterTheIvyLeague.com

Recently, Dennis Persica wrote at The New Orleans Advocate:

Despite all of the recent public fretting, the go-cup is not being killed off. It’s only being regulated — regulated a lot more than, say, guns or campaign contributions.

It turns out that while a lot of people weren’t looking, restrictions on go-cups have been slipped into agreements between neighborhoods and their alcoholic beverage outlets. In some cases, such as the booming Freret Street area between Napoleon and Jefferson avenues, go-cups have been banned at all restaurants and bars.

Persica wrote after a week of online drama over the future of the go-cup, much of it coinciding with the Daiquiri Festival, the daiquiri being a drink that cries out for a go-cup. In a recent article for Vice.com, Michael Patrick Welch wrote:

Jeremy Thompson says he’s been warned by City Council that a bigger go-cup battle is on the way. So in partnership with local businesses such as the Big Easy Daiquiri chain (which has five shops in the French Quarter alone), Thompson is helping to set up protective bureaucracies around the drink and go-cup culture in general. “Rather than protest or play defense,” says Thompson, “we plan to create policy and an infrastructure, so that when [go-cup culture] is threatened we can say, ‘What are you doing with these ordinances? They’re impeding on the structure of the city.’ We want them to be playing defense.”

Thompson's anxiety was shared by many on Facebook, who saw the tightening of restrictions on go-cups as part of the perceived threats to live music and New Orleans' culture at large. At The Advocate, Andrew Vanacore answered those concerns:

Rumors of a creeping assault on the idea — regarded in some quarters as more of a civil right — that bar patrons in New Orleans ought to be allowed to grab a plastic cup, fill it with the contents of an unfinished beer or cocktail and hit the street have finally prompted the New Orleans City Council to make a public pronouncement in favor of the status quo.

“We write to clarify a misconception that there is a collective or concerted effort to ban to-go cups,” the council said, admitting that both the City Council and the city Planning Commission have handed down various provisos over the past decade curtailing go-cup use at certain establishments and in certain residential areas.

Even with caveats, the council emphasizes, “There is no blanket prohibition of go-cups.”

On one hand, it's nice to get such reassurances (Alex Woodward filed a similar report at Gambit), but go-cup restrictions are being put in place nonetheless, which is the rub. New Orleans Alcohol Control Board and the City Planning Commission are making decisions that affect the nature of New Orleans nightlife, in effect forcing closing times and go-cup limits by strongly encouraging alcoholic beverage outlets to get good neighbor agreements which almost inevitably include such provisos.

For much of the city, these issues may be largely symbolic, but they're symbols that shouldn't be whisked away so bureaucratically. Part of the city's allure is the freedom it offers, and if it's going to compromised - even symbolically - an elected official should have to have his or her name on the decision. The idea that decision affecting the city's identity are being made by unelected officials - people with no constituency to answer to - is disturbing.

I've also heard secondhand that bars that run afoul of the Alcohol Control Board are subject to unrelated measures, and fee-oriented issues can result in go-cup restrictions. If that is happening, first, it's shameful, but more importantly, it sends the clear message - intentional or not - that these measures are punishments and not part of any effort to find peaceful coexistence in New Orleans' neighborhoods. That message only fuels the fear that New Orleans' city government is trying to remake our nightlife into a PG caricature of itself. I don't genuinely believe that it's what the Mayor's office nor City Council wants, but it's the way things are drifting, one venue and hearing at a time.