The New World Order is upon us. The very soul of our culture is at stake. They want to take away our most fundamental and cherished liberties. But let’s set the record straight: It’s not our guns they’re coming for; this is much more dire than that they are coming for our go-cups.
In the years of unfettered neighborhood gentrification since Katrina, our city has been beset by acrimonious debate over neighborhood identities, cultural values and historical iconography. At the heart of some of these civic skirmishes: go-cups.
The times, they are a-changing. Smoking bans. Increased parking meter fees. Noise ordinances. Curfews. Closing the dog parks. Locking the cemetery gates. Tearing down monuments. Bike lanes. Uber.
That is all well and good. Testing the waters of the 21st century isn’t an entirely bad idea for post-K New Orleans. But it seems like New Orleans is dipping its whole leg into contemporary waters rather than a delicate toe.
It is all happening too fast. And when you come for my go-cup, to quote the late, great country crooner Merle Haggard: You’re on the fightin’ side of me.
To our credit, many New Orleanians have generally and peacefully acquiesced to the paradigm of the new New Orleans with our typical equanimity. But you can have my go-cup when you pry it out of my cold, dead hand – and it better be empty when you do.
By my thinking, New Orleans without go-cups is like New Orleans without street musicians, tap dancers, streetcars, painted coconuts and second lines. You might as well just go to Atlanta.
Does New Orleans have much more pressing and dire concerns than plastic cups? Hell, yes we do. But some things are sacred. Some aspects of our culture will never die. You can’t stop our singing. You can’t stop our dancing. And you better not stop our go-cupping.
Consider that some French Quarter outlets don’t even have interiors – just windows on the sidewalk to serve walk-up customers. In fact, this is the only location where you can procure a trademarked (literally: trademarked) Huge Ass Beer. I ask you: After the Sazerac and the Hurricane, what beverage is more synonymous with New Orleans than Huge Ass Beers?
City Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell is at least one public official coming down on the right side of history: “I do not see the City Council outlawing go-cups,” she recently said. “The residents would go crazy – me being one of them. I remember when I was working on the smoking ordinance to ban smoking in bars and casinos and one man told me, ‘You can take our cigarettes, but you better not f— with the go-cups!’”
But it’s happening, on a grand scale in some areas as general policy, and at smaller individual locations that have attracted the ire of neighbors and City Hall.
The entire Freret Street dining and entertainment district is a no-go-cup zone, the first neighborhood-wide ban to take effect in the city, a result of compromise with local residents in a burgeoning commercial and nightlife area.
Then there area more specific locations and isolated instances. When the St. Roch Tavern in Bywater was temporarily shut down for noise, litter and loitering violations, it had to surrender its go-cup privileges to get a permit to reopen.
Other locations are being required to put the name of their business on their go-cups so that the sources of residential neighborhood litter can be easily identified.
Despite these crackdowns, spokesmen from the Mayor’s Office repeatedly deny that there’s a coordinated effort or conspiracy afoot to completely erase go-cups from the city’s entertainment landscape.
We should hope not. The implications would likely be dire, maybe even dangerous.
The New Orleans go-cup controversy has been covered in media outlets as diverse as VICE and the International Business Times. In the latter, Elizabeth Pearce, a historian at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, warned: “I do think if they f— around with the go-cup, the people will revolt.”
Tough choices, unwelcome changes. Revolution in the air. Where is Merle Haggard to lead us when we need him?