Jan 24, 2013

Posted by in My Life's Quirks | 15 Comments

My Life’s Quirks – Why Bourbon Street Shocked the Sh*t Out Of Me

When I attended Authors After Dark last year, it was being held in New Orleans.  And the hotel was right on Bourbon street.  Those of you who were hanging out with me will remember that Bourbon street was a little overwhelming to me.  Okay, so the noise and the people and the booze freaked me right out!  I thought I would try to explain the why behind it.

I would be what is classified a good girl.  I rarely drink (I’m talking two to three times a year) and when I do, one drink gets me tipsy.  One Hurricane drink in New Orleans made me very happy.  And seeing that I am French Canadian and am naturally chatty, one drink tends to make me super chatty.  Seriously.  That could be my super hero name.  Also, I don’t do drugs (never even tried them) nor do I smoke (never tried that either)  So yes, I am what you would consider the complete opposite of a party girl.

On top of being a ‘good girl’, I am also Canadian.  Now I know that not all Canadians are shocked by mass amounts of booze being consumed at 10 in the morning, but it isn’t a common occurrence here.  Actually, you are not allowed to drink in the street at all no matter the time of day.  It’s illegal.  Here is a rundown of how it works here:

“In Canada, with the exception of Quebec, possession of open containers of alcohol in public is generally a violation of provincial acts and municipal bylaws. Open liquor is not permitted except in private residences or on licensed premises. Open liquor is also illegal in parts of national and provincial parks, though this prohibition may not apply to campsites, as your temporary residence. Ontario Provincial Parks allow alcohol on campsites only.

In British Columbia, possession of ‘open liquor’ is a $230 fine. In Ontario, possession of an open container or consumption of liquor in a public place is a $125 fine (as per the Liquor Licence Act, ssec 31(2)). Those caught by law enforcement officiers are forced to pour out the alcoholic beverage, after which offenders are sometimes issued a verbal warning instead of a monetary penalty.

In Quebec, laws on the consumption of alcohol in public is more relaxed than in the rest of Canada. Most notably, alcohol may be consumed in public parks during a meal.*”

On Bourbon street, waitresses were walking around selling shots to the people taking a stroll on the street!  The breakfast menu in Bourbon street and surrounding area restaurants rendered me speechless.  One side showed your eating options.  The other side of the menu showed your drinking option.  I’m not taking tea or coffee here.  I’m talking booze.  On the breakfast menu.  Booze on the freaking breakfast menu!

There is one more reason why I had trouble adjusting to Bourbon street and for this one, I will use visual aids.

My village here in Ontario Canada has a population of about 3500.  We have one bar.  It’s about the size of my living room.  Here is a picture of the town’s bar around 9pm.


Here is a picture of Bourbon street in New Orleans around 9pm.

'Bourbon Street' photo (c) 2011, Jimmy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Here is a picture of rue Principale, my town’s Main street, around 9pm.


You can hear crickets.  So that right there, the fact that hardly anyone ventures past 9pm in my village, is the main reason why Bourbon street was a total shock to me.  I am beyond not used to that and it opened my eyes to a completely different culture.  A culture who drinks booze.  With breakfast.

Why Bourbon street shocked the sh*t out of me.  Just another one of my life’s quirks.




*as found in "drinking in public" on wikipedia


  1. It was so strange during the day to see the streets empty, but by 8pm it was packed with so many people enjoying their debauchery. I even joined in with a few jello shots at the one karaoke bar. I won’t even tell you the last time I did jello shots. O.O

  2. Jello shots FTW!!!

    (*hugs Julie*) I grew up in New Orleans, so imagine how strange it was for me to visit other places and learn about restrictions on alcohol sales. What do you mean I can buy a bottle of Jack Daniels at the grocery store???

  3. KT – Um…I’ve never done a jello shot. I guess that is something I should have tried while there lol.

    Jen – OMG You guys sell liquor in your DRUG stores!!! I almost took a picture of that because I just couldn’t believe it! Here, you can only buy booze at the liquor store (except for Québec – there you can buy it at the corner store).

  4. Jennifer @ The Book Nympho says:

    Bourbon Street didn’t shock me even though AAD was my 1st being there. But I’m a good girl like you (yes I have a dirty mind and mouth). I’ve never tried drugs or smoke and I’m not much of a drinker.

    I stayed inside the hotel a lot because I didn’t care much for Bourbon street. Not cuz of the drinking and partying I just thought it was dirty and nasty. I was afraid of germs that the piss smelling streets had. LOL

    Needless to say that was my one and only visit to Bourbon Street.

    Not all American cities are like New Orleans as far as the liquor freedom.
    Especially in the South among the Bible Belt.

    Where I live you can’t have open liquor in public either and you can’t buy it on Sundays. And we have wet and dry counties. Dry being you can’t buy it in that county. That’s why there are tons of liquor stores just across county lines in some places. LOL

  5. That’s very interesting to see the differences between all the cultures and places. Here, in France, I think we’re nearer to New Orleans’ habits than to Ontorio’s ones.
    Buying liquors is as easy as buying an apple,even on sundays (that doesn’t mean that we drink these alcohols all day long!!!).
    But even if I didn’t go to New Orleans yet, I think there is a very special atmosphere we don’t have here. I’m living in Bordeaux which a young town because of all the students but wich also is very “well educated” for the most part. I don’t think there is the crazyness and the warmth I feel there is in new Orleans.

  6. I grew up in the Chicago area,where you can buy liquor pretty much anywhere, but not on Sunday mornings and where you definitely can’t have it on the street. You also can’t have it in the car–a 6-pack of beer that only has 4 bottles is considered open alcohol & will get you tossed in jail.

    Then we moved to the Atlanta area. We were amazed at the fact that you had to go to a separate store to buy alcohol & no sales on Sunday at all. They are, in my mind, crazy restrictive about alcohol but then there are “gentleman’s clubs” EVERYWHERE, seems pretty hypocritical to me. On top of that anyone in the car other than the driver can be drinking! (this may have changed, I haven’t lived there for about 7 years now)

    Now we are in the Philly area & the liquor laws here are purely insane. I am amazed that they are more restrictive than Atlanta. Plus the state owns all the liquor stores so all the prices & most of the options are the same no matter where you shop. Here you can transport any kind of open liquor, wine, beer in the car but no one can be drinking it.

    Honestly we don’t drink much so it’s not like any of the rules have much affect on us but the different rules in different places are interesting. And sometimes pretty archaic.

  7. So that wasn’t my first (or last) trip to New Orleans but I normally go over Thanksgiving weekend and NEVER stay on Bourbon. This was the first time that I have stayed on Bourbon and I was overwhelmed. The things I love about New Orleans: the history, the ghost tours, the food, the artists are not very prevalent on Bourbon Street.

    I stayed down the block for AAD. It was quieter outside my hotel and I was pretty much inside by 9pm at night. I don’t know that I would go back and stay on Bourbon Street again. I think I am plain just to old for that. A couple of glasses of wine and I am ready to sleep. 🙂

  8. Julie..thats sooo funny and like uve heard, things are differnt all over the USA. ive noticed much more restrictions in the older states and being from Georgia i can agree.

    Living in CA now and there are no restrictions…except of course, u cant walk down the street drinking and no drinking and driving!

    Dont go to Las Vegas…it sounds the same as Bourbon Street. (ive never been to NOLA…but i want to go someday esp to the vampire/cemetery tours!)

  9. I’m from Switzerland and well… people here are usually shocked to hear that you can get a fine for drinking a beer on the street in the US! It’s just weird to me. Why wouldn’t you be allowed to drink outside in public? I don’t really understand. Doesn’t mean you have to get sh*tfaced on the street in broad daylight, but to see people just off work around 5 p.m. drinking from a can of beer while they wait for the bus is a fairly common occurrence. Or hanging out in a park/square/the lake and drinking. You can buy alcohol at the supermarket, the kiosk/cornerstore, gas stations…
    Then again, the laws are really different here anyway. You’re allowed to drink beer & wine at 16 and all the other stuff at 18. You can’t drive a car before you’re 18 though, and drinking and driving is of course a no-go. Other people in the car may drink though as long as they don’t distract the driver.
    Now this doesn’t mean that we’re a constantly inebriated culture. I’ve never been drunk, actually. Slightly tipsy at most. I have maybe one drink every couple months. I’ve never smoked, even though it’s legal at 16, so people can smoke outside during break at high school. I’ve also never done drugs. I just don’t see the appeal. There are places who have problems with ‘loitering’ teens but I think for the most part it’s not really that a big deal, especially in more rural areas.
    I don’t know. I just find it interesting to see how differently these issues are handled in other cultures! Sorry for the long comment ^^”

  10. ROFL – I understand your shock, Julie. New Orleans was a shock to me too when I first visited. I later moved there and grew accustom to all the alcohol but I understand your culture shock because I experienced it firsthand. One odd thing I noted when living there: The excessive drinking isn’t just relegated to “party” areas. I distinctly remember standing in line at my local grocery market, and noting the little old lady in front of me had a grocery care COMPLETELY FULL of alcohol and little else.

    I hope you don’t think that’s the norm down here in the states though. New Orleans is one of the only cities (if not THE only city) in this country where you can have open beverages outside in a public place. It’s also one of the only cities where you won’t get in trouble for indecent exposure (another thing I’m sure you saw a lot of on Bourbon street).

    The thing that makes things interesting in the States is the alcohol laws are set by the city or sometimes the county. Which means you can have one city that doesn’t allow the sale of alcohol AT ALL – and then another city that won’t let you sell on Sunday or after 2 AM. Then you have New Orleans where you can run around with a beer in hand. I live in California now, and we can buy alcohol everywhere – gas station, grocery store, or drug store, etc. The only restriction we have is no open beverages in a public place and no open beverages in the front seat of a car, as well as the normal rules about not driving drunk.

    It is really fascinating to know how things are handled differently in different countries.

  11. Including the pictures made me laugh. I was dumbstruck when I visited New York’s Time Square so I totally get what you experienced. Great post.

  12. PWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! ok I have two things to say… First, I may be bored out of my mind if Louisiana all of a sudden became that quiet at 9 pm… Secondly… I’ll have you know that a lovely mamosa is fantastic for breakfast!! Hahahaha so…. When are you coming back to see me down south in Louisiana hehehehe but on a serious note, please understand that EVERY PERSON who isn’t from south Louisiana goes into complete culture shock when they get here 🙂 so you are actually in the majority… But honestly… I might be heart broken if I lost my drive thru daiquiri options… Yes we have those everywhere- it’s like a mcDonald’s bar hahahaha 🙂 drive up, order, pay, drive away with said order 🙂 LOL! Sex on the Beach daiquiri is one of my favorites… Ps… Mardi Gras is just around the corner!!

  13. LOL..Julie! I completely understand, I’m used to all that, but can you imagine my shock? When I moved from Costa Rica at the age of 18, I went to school just 20 minutes form New York city, LOL.. in the 80’s I might add..cocaine was everywhere I went, never mind alcohol, the way NY city is now is more like Disneyland, nothing like it used to be back then. So yea, I can say I seen it all..LOL, so New Orleans never shocked me, but so many ugly men in red dresses really did..LOL
    Thank God I had a head on my shoulders at such a young age, I do love my wine, and I can drink like a truck driver, but I’m so glad I stayed away from the drugs.

  14. Jennifer – Yeah…the smell on the street. Especially around midnight. Lovely… Or almost worst, first thing in the morning! Ew! lol

    Zendastark – The atmosphere was interesting for sure. I hear there is no place like Bourbon street and I would totally believe it.

    Allison – Our liquor stores are province owned too so the prices are the same everywhere. In my village, we only have a liquor store so there is a beer cooler/fridge in the back. But in some larger towns there are separate beer stores and liquor stores. It’s amazing how many different kinds of liquor and beer there are out there! lol

    Felicia – I found it amazing how concentrated the action was on Bourbon street. I went on the tour with Adrian Phoenix and one minute you are in the middle of the thick crowds and the next you are in a dark and quiet part of the street. It was amazing that is was the same street! lol

    Sharon – Not planning on going to Vegas. Ever. 😉 I can only imagine the liquor laws in the ‘older’ more southern states. They are probably a little bit comical lol.

    Carmen – It’s weird to me too! lol How interesting that you can drink beer and wine younger than other liquors.
    And I love long comments – never apologize for that 😉

    Jessica – A little old lady had a cart full of booze! Too funny!

    Michelle – Yeah…Time Square is another place I don’t think I would manage well in lol.

    Maghon – You have a drive-thru daiquiri place?! I didn’t see those! LOL

    Lupdilup – I can only imagine the shock you went through when you moved to the US!

  15. Hahahaha of course we do!! Let me think… I have at lease 3 in a 5 mile radius from my house, expand that to 10 mile radius and there’s about 7… And where I work in Lafayette, there’s I swear 10 on my drive! Yes ma’am we had Daquiri drive thrus everywhere lol in a terrible stereotyping sentence, my reply to yours is… Ummm it’s Louisiana hahaha 🙂

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