In New Orleans, it is legal to walk outside while holding an open container of alcohol. This is why drinkers on Bourbon Street can meander up and down the street carrying a plastic cup of their favorite beverage, stopping at takeout windows for refills. Patrons of restaurants or bars can also take a cup to go, known locally as a go-cup, instead of chugging what is left in a glass before leaving.
At one time, restaurants with drive-through windows would sell drinks to go. A driver could buy a drink (served in a glass or plastic cup) and drive away with it, or drink it in the car in the parking lot. In 2004, the law was changed to prohibit drivers from having open containers, although passengers could have an open alcoholic beverage. That made it possible for a driver to pass his drink to a passenger if he was stopped by the police. Later, the law was changed to prohibit all open containers in cars. Now the old restaurant drive-through windows selling drinks are gone as well. Drive-through daiquiri stands still exist, but since 2004 they can only sell daiquiris in sealed containers.
The ability to have open containers outdoors is an important element of the drinking culture of the city. Not only does it attract the tourist out for a massive public drunk, but the law also facilitates other cultural practices, such as Mardi Gras, when drinking in the street is almost mandatory. During Carnival, members of walking clubs parade around town pulling rolling coolers full of beer and other alcoholic drinks. Parade watchers carry picnic fare and alcoholic beverages to enjoy with their meal as they watch the bands and floats go by. Public drinking also means that picnics in the park or on the seawall of Lake Pontchartrain areas in other places causes many a traveling New Orleanian to appreciate the customs of home.
Tourists are often amazed by the drive-through daiquiri shops. Until recently even an open container in a car was allowed. In the 1950s and 1960s a drive-up window at a restaurant was as likely to sell a cocktail or a beer as food. Whether because of the early tradition of hedonism, the lack of Puritan roots, or because the city simply admits that drinking is one of its historically legal pleasures, drinking in public is not taboo. It sets a tone in the city. The city drinks.
During parades whether Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, St. Joseph's Day, Halloween, or any other celebration-walkers often carry their own beverages. Mardi Gras walkers often pull a wagon equipped with an ice chest full of alcoholic beverages so that there is no need to stop and purchase such sustenance along the parade route.
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