Local reaction is already being felt to yesterday’s passage of California Proposition 220. All over the Bay Area, bars, taverns, and saloons of all sorts are preparing for midnight on March 1, when they will have to close their doors to the obese.
The law came as a surprise to most, rushed as it was through the state legislature before the formidable “hospitality” industry could mount any sort of lobby. Shock, outrage and sadness were the emotions of the day.
“I think we’re going to see some real tragic fall-out from this law,” said bartender Lew Halls, of San Francisco's legendary Red Kerchief Saloon. “Think about the regulars, the portly gentlemen who’ve made this bar their home for decades. What am I going to tell Frankie Pipps when he comes in for his daily gimlet?”
It was later discovered that the 450-lb. Mr. Pipps died last year of a massive coronary attack. Upon being reminded of this, Halls laughed and drank a gimlet in his honor.
Rich Goorn, owner of the Rubiyat Bar, struck a similar note. “It’s not just that we’ll be losing a lot of people, a lot of friends. But these are the best drinkers. The last thing I need is more people who’ll drink one shot of Wild Turkey, stumble around and throw up on the pool table. You’ll never catch a heavyweight acting like that.”
Another common theme was the inherent cruelty of the new law. In denying the obese access to bars, it seems to withhold a small pleasure from those most in need of it. “Do we need to dump on these people any more than life already has?” asked Melanie Frank, who tends bar at the Burlingame Holiday Inn. “Everyday I see the tiny bit of happiness that a stiff drink brings to some obese person. It gives me a little thrill to see the look in their eyes when they grasp the glass in their clammy, quivering hands, and slowly raise it to a pair of lips as swollen and malleable as risen dough.”
Other publicans remained circumspect in the face of the new law. “I can’t say I like it, but I think we’ll be all right, just the same,” reported Antonio Savane, owner and chief bartender of Antonio’s Nut House in Palo Alto. “You see, most of our patrons are wheelchair-bound veterans, and they’ve been specifically exempted from the new law.” This provision was added to the law late, as an appeasement measure to several prominent veterans’ organizations. Antonio chuckled and added, “If they ever start banning mental illness, then we’ll be in real trouble.”