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Disneyland Bringing Booze to Blue Bayou

With the reopening of Disneyland and Disney California less than a month away, preparations are underway to welcome guests back. In a wide-ranging announcement covering everything from a new dill pickle corn dog to cereal flavors of ice cream at Salt & Straw, Disney also revealed that Blue Bayou Restaurant will soon serve alcohol.

In so doing, Blue Bayou Restaurant will join Oga’s Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as only the second location to sell alcohol to the general public in Disneyland’s 65+ year history. This follows the addition of beer and wines to select menus in Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland in recent years, as the unwritten rule that castle parks only served alcohol in the private Club 33 and its lounges has gradually been eroded.

Historically, any changes at Disneyland have been controversial. Alcohol in Disney’s theme parks has also been a polarizing issue. Combining the two has been a veritable powder keg. However, it’s a “nice” change of pace from the usual controversies of the day, so we’ll share details and offer our commentary in this post…

Let’s start with the basics of the news. Per Disney Parks Blog, Blue Bayou Restaurant will soon offer new beverage options that elevate the culinary experience. This guest-favorite spot will open after the theme parks reopen, with that date to be shared at a later time.

Although Disney didn’t state as much, the reopening of Blue Bayou is likely being delayed because the restaurant is technically inside Pirates of the Caribbean. In the orange tier of the reopening plan, there’s a time limit for indoor attractions that presumably complicates things for Blue Bayou.

According to Disneyland, the enhanced offerings fit with the “story and spirit of the Blue Bayou and reflect what many of our guests have requested.” The new additions will complement the menu and theme of the restaurant, with beverages such as wine, beer, and a specialty Hurricane Cocktail – a New Orleans staple!

In addition to these alcoholic beverages, Blue Bayou will soon offer a new celebration sparkling wine package that guests will be able to pair with the restaurant’s menu items, like the Surf and Turf. Also, keep an eye out for new, seasonal takes on Blue Bayou’s Mint Julep non-alcoholic beverage.

What bothers me most about this news is that to me, it’s so transparently a red herring meant to draw attention away from the real controversy over which Disneyland fans should be reaching for the pitchforks…

Disneyland is going to sell a Dill Pickle Corn Dog. Not just that, but it’s going to be panko-crusted and served with a side of peanut butter?! Someone please tell me this is an early April Fools joke.

Before anyone says, “but Tom, you’ve never even tried a dill pickle corn dog dipped in peanut butter, maybe you should give it a chance!” I’ve also never had Kibbles ‘n Bits dipped in Pepto-Bismol. Some things just aren’t fit for human consumption. The one positive here is that at least this culinary abomination is going to be served at the Blue Ribbon Corn Dogs Cart in Downtown Disney and not at the in-park National Historic Landmarks that are Little Red Wagon and Corn Dog Castle.

However, we all know how this story goes: Disney starts with a venue no one cares about in Downtown Disney, then Trojan Horses nasty pickle corn dogs onto every single menu in both parks. It’s a slippery slope that ends with all of us being forced to buy gross pickle corn dogs just to access the restrooms, folks. Let’s not all naively surrender our freedom from vile pickle corn dogs so quickly.

I’m just going to go ahead and say what everyone is thinking: Walt would be rolling in his grave. (Fun fact: one of the deleted scenes in Saving Mr. Banks is Tom Hanks going on a 14 minute rant about corn dog integrity. Most film scholars agree it would’ve really helped with the flow of the film.)

In all seriousness, is anyone surprised by the announcement that alcohol will be served at Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland? Do we honestly even care at this point? I feel like whatever outrage existed about this was exhausted years ago. It wasn’t even that much of a surprise back when the menu for Oga’s Cantina was announced.

At that point, it was tacitly understood that alcohol would be added to more table service menus at Disneyland in due course. The obvious next candidate was always going to be Blue Bayou Restaurant, which will likely be followed by Cafe Orleans. The writing has been on the wall for years.

From a practical perspective, this is hardly cause for concern. Just as Oga’s Cantina wasn’t going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, neither will a pricey table service restaurant that books up weeks/months in advance. I haven’t heard of a single incident involving alcohol at Magic Kingdom despite that park’s similar policy. At Disneyland Resort, it has been the case for the last two decades that guests could walk 100 yards to DCA and get drunk, then return to Disneyland.

To the extent there even is any, the controversy here will be less about the actual outcome and more about history. This is really only an issue for longtime Disneyland fans versed in Walt Disney’s personal beliefs about alcohol in his park. And on that note, what follows is my commentary from the Oga’s Cantina announcement, reproduced here in part…

In a 1956 interview with the Saturday Evening Post, Walt said: “No liquor, no beer, nothing [in Disneyland]. Because that brings in a rowdy element. That brings people that we don’t want and I feel they don’t need it. I feel when I go down to the park I don’t need a drink. I work around that place all day and I don’t have one.

In context, this interview was about how Disneyland differed from a traditional amusement park, and how it offered an inviting atmosphere for families. The interview also specifically addresses clean toilets and was intended to reset expectations about what Disneyland, an unknown quantity at the time, would be, and how it would differ from amusement parks of the era.

The full interview is an interesting, enlightening, and amusing read. In context, it’s fair to say that Walt’s interview offers a “sales pitch” for Disneyland, informing guests of this new concept and clearly differentiating his new park from other amusement parks of the era.

Over 65 years later, Disneyland is very much a known quantity. No sales pitch necessary. Disney PR does not have to mention restroom cleanliness or other signifiers of how Disney theme parks differ from Six Flags or local state fairs. The difference is patently obvious, and Disneyland’s reputation precedes it. Even those who have never been to one know that Disneyland is in a different league than regional amusement parks.

With regard to this topic or any, “what Walt would do” in the year 2021 is unknown by me and by you. (Note: just in case it wasn’t obvious, my line about Walt rolling in his grave over the corn dog news was a joke.) My opinions change from year to year, and I don’t even have that much going on upstairs. It’s fair to say that a visionary mind like his would’ve evolved on a variety of topics over the course of several decades. And that’s putting it mildly.

From a business perspective, it’s inarguable that it now makes sense to sell alcohol in Disneyland. There’s no need to establish a reputation for Disneyland at this point that would differentiate it from lowbrow amusement parks. That was a savvy, calculated business move in Walt Disney’s era, just as pivoting to sell alcohol is a savvy business move in today’s era.

Nevertheless, we think it’s somewhat understandable that fans are perturbed by the sale of alcohol in Disneyland, as Walt has explicit quotes on this very topic. His position was crystal-clear…albeit it ~65 years ago.

Moreover, it’s hypocritical on Disney’s part. Pretty much any announcement of an attraction closing or a potentially unpopular is usually justified with some Walt Disney quote about progress or moving forward. The implicit message is always clear: “what we are doing is okay because this is what Walt would have wanted.”

This cherry-picking of Walt Disney quotes to justify business decisions is disingenuous at best, and emotionally manipulative at worst. The fact is, no one knows what Walt Disney would have wanted or done decades after his death, and to apply very vague quotes to very specific decisions is inappropriate.

The Walt Disney Company should own all of its business decisions based on whatever current circumstances exist, not use Walt as a convenient PR shield when it so suits the company. The flip side to that is fans using him as a sword in situations like this. The reality is that in every situation, the modern Disney company is acting in its own contemporaneous best interests without regard to Walt Disney. At this point, he’s basically a corporate mascot, little different from the mouse he created.

Ultimately, I have nothing against alcohol being sold at table service restaurants in Disneyland as has been the case for two decades in Disneyland Paris and now at Magic Kingdom for several years. Despite that, neither of those parks have devolved into amusement parks with roaming gangs and spontaneous ruckuses. We’ve never witnessed any alcohol-fueled incidents in Disney California Adventure, either. Literally the only Disney park in the world that ever seems to have problems is EPCOT, which has cultivated a competitive culture of drinking around World Showcase.

Besides, if someone wants to be wasted at Disneyland, they can chug a few drinks at Disney California Adventure and be inside Disneyland within 10 minutes. From a practical perspective, it has long been possible to be drunk at Disneyland (even before DCA, there were convenience stores ~10 minutes from the Esplanade), so this shouldn’t really change the vibe of the park. Also, if that dill pickle corn dog somehow, against all odds, manages to be delicious, I thought it was a great idea all along. 😉

If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!

Your Thoughts

What do you think of alcohol being served in Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland? Are you surprised by this news or “over” the alcohol at Disneyland controversy? Thoughts on that dill pickle corn dog? Agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? We love hearing from readers–even when you disagree with us–so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!

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