Days and evenings at Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth, will soon get a bit happier, while many mornings will soon get a bit tougher. Happy evenings and tough mornings – what else could I be talking about? Alcohol of course!
In an unexpected move, Disneyland has announced that soon after its April 30th reopening, they will begin offering wine, beer, sparkling wine, and a specialty cocktail at the Blue Bayou, a sit-down restaurant in New Orleans Square, overlooking the legendary Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
This was a surprise to many as Disneyland has remained (almost) dry since its opening in 1955. While Walt Disney was far from a teetotaler, often seen enjoying a scotch on the rocks, he famously decided to keep Disneyland free from alcohol. This decision removed a huge source of revenue for the parks, but Walt wanted to maintain a family friendly atmosphere, free from the alcohol-fueled shenanigans that one would find at a typical state fair in the first half of the century.
One could argue that this decision provided more of a perception of safety, rather than having any real effect, but in the world of Disney magic, perception is reality.
The park was not completely alcohol free. Walt Disney built himself an apartment above the fire station on Main Street and personally imbibed in his residence. They have also served alcohol in the exclusive Club 33 in New Orleans Square. While membership is required to visit this club, the park has still needed to maintain a liquor license for this restaurant and lounge.
The alcohol prohibition was officially broken two years ago when Galaxy’s Edge opened on the northwest edges of the park. Oga’s Cantina provided the first full-time alcohol service within Disneyland for park guests.
Alcohol has been a fixture in many of Disney’s non-castle theme parks, including Disneyland’s sister park, Disney California Adventure, which opened in 2001.
While Galaxy’s Edge officially broke the ‘No Alcohol’ policy, today’s news about the Blue Bayou feels like a bigger change. Walt Disney died more than a decade before the first Star Wars film was even released and nearly 55 years before Galaxy’s Edge opened on a parcel of land that was never included in the park while Walt was alive. So there is a bit of separation between Walt’s policy of the 1950s and 1960s and Galaxy’s Edge.
New Orleans Square’s conception and construction was personally overseen by Walt himself. The Blue Bayou shares space with the last attraction Walt ever worked on. So today’s announcement seems like a bigger change than 2019’s Galaxy’s Edge.
After a year of lockdowns, the increased revenue from these adult beverages will surely be welcomed. Both Oga’s Cantina and Blue Bayou are experiences that require reservations and the mixed drinks are purposefully light on the alcohol, so an uptick in alcohol-fueled disruptions within the park is highly unlikely. But it does make one wonder what is next in this slow journey out of prohibition.
For the time being one will have to plan far ahead to book a reservation and spend a large amount of money for a small serving of alcohol. Or, like they’ve been doing for 65 years, people can just drink at a nearby restaurant, hotel, or in Downtown Disney before heading into Disneyland. Or, depending on one’s desire, or need, to drink, one can simply sneak alcohol into the park. While we do not condone this behavior, it would be foolish to pretend it doesn’t occur regularly.
So the quesiton remains, regardless of what Disneyland serves to guests or what Walt Disney publicly desired, was Disneyland ever truly alcohol-free? The answer is no, no it was not.