Denver Direct: On OpenAir Cinema

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On OpenAir Cinema

As OpenAir Cinema goes forward with its plans to close a large section of City Park and charge admission to outdoor movies, the company is expected to seek a tavern liquor license to sell and serve alcoholic beverages.

Renowned Denver historian, author, and social critic Phil Goodstein has this commentary exclusively for Denver Direct:

The all-so-sophisticated arts crowd cannot think of having an event without alcohol, even as the righteous decry drinking by “undesirables,” i.e., the poor who hang out in Civic Center. Affluent modern alcoholics cannot conceive of an activity without liquor. When attending a “cultural” event, many people head straight for the bar even before finding their seats.

When it comes to liquor, hypocrisy trumps everything. For example, thanks to the liquor interests led by John W. Hickenlooper, there is a hideously ugly fence on Colfax by East High School. The fence is supposed to assure that the liquor license at the converted Bonfils-Lowenstein theater does not violate the rule of no liquor too close to a school.

Nothing more outrages neighborhood improvers than the threat of a liquor store opening in their abode. At times, neighborhood residents go absolutely ballistic when a restaurant owner applies for a liquor license. The worthy who are the heart and soul of residential improvement associations so frequently come across as comparable to the staunch Puritans who upheld the forces of righteousness that led to the imposition of Prohibition nearly one hundred years ago.

While some supporters of temperance fully observed the deadly impact of alcohol and the hideously corrupt matrix of saloon operators with city hall, others promoted Prohibition as a way of striking against immigrants. The Prohibitionists did not like the way the “foreigners” drank heavily. Prohibiting liquor for the poor, ideally, was to force them to become righteous, worthy members of the “middle class.”

So it is today. Most neighborhood associations cannot think of having a block party without intoxicating beverages; they love their wine and cheese parties as a sign of their sophistication. Even more, their mega-festivals, such as the People’s Fair, are little more than a big beer bashes. Worst of all, whenever the city talks about transforming parks into private ventures, provisions for selling and serving liquor are part and parcel of the proposal.

This is especially the case at the Civic Center and City Park where city hall, with the rubber stamp of council, is ready to close the space to everyday citizens so an out-of-state corporation can profit by charging admission to show movies in the parks. The venture, backers explain, is absolutely necessary because the “wrong” kind of people hang out at the Civic Center, i.e., the poor and homeless, including those who suffer from alcohol addictions. In other words, only drinking by the wealthy and righteous is permitted by the neighborhood backers of a city hall totally under the thumb of former saloonkeeper John Hickenlooper.