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News » Private Eye

Close My Eyes

Don't get MADD, get sensible on private clubs.


The president of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is Mr. Art Brown. It’s not known if his nieces and nephews call him Auntie, but none theless, Mr. Brown is a mother at heart. A misdirected one, to be sure. No matter the liquor issue, he always comes up with nearly the same exact misattributions to back his cause. Get rid of private clubs? More kids drinking, says Mr. Brown. Take down the Zion Curtain facade in Utah restaurants? Never, says Mr. Brown, because then kids will be tempted to drink. Allow a club to operate in a so-called residential neighborhood, a la Archie Bunker’s place? Nope, kids will drink for certain, says Brown.

The original MADD mission statement from 1980 was “to aid the victims of crimes performed by individuals driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to aid the fami- lies of such victims and to increase public awareness of the problem of drinking and drugged driving.” It has morphed several times and now reads, “The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.” Well and fine, but Brown is more concerned about preventing people—all people, not just kids—from drinking, let alone driving.

I’m not sure that’s what MADD intended. Something seems to have gone mad at MADD. Brown must not be sure, either, because every now and then, he tosses the new MADD mission statement a bone. When asked recently about the prospect of Salt Lake City allowing more than two liquor outlets per block face in downtown, Brown told The Salt Lake Tribune, “When you increase the number of open bars, research shows you increase the prospect of public-safety problems.”

And that research resides where again, Mr. Brown? It hardly matters. There’s never any attri- bution to real research because, when MADD speaks, politicians cower. Yet, who is MADD locally? Local MADD sightings consistently include only Mr. Brown and his wife Jaynie. Brown comes by his disdain for drunken driving tragically—his grandson was killed by a drunken driver.

I’m as mad about drunken driving as Brown is. I’ve buried at least six friends due to accidents related to drinking and driving. Not one was killed by a driver who got drunk in a private club, tavern or restaurant, though. I know it happens. But as one who grew up in Leadmine, Bingham Canyon, with a tavern roof for a front porch, I don’t come so readily to the corollaries that Brown likes to draw. For starters, I’ve come to believe that kids who are sheltered from certain “sins,” drinking among them, often as not abuse them more than those who were taught that certain lifestyles don’t necessarily equate to sinning.

My first job was in that same Bingham Canyon watering hole, the Moonlight Tavern. Everyone called it “the Mooner.” I was 14, and I cleaned the place on the weekends. For decades, the Mooner captured the afternoonand night-shift changes at Kennecott Copper as miners rolled in pre- and post-shift for a “schooner at the Mooner.” Breaking glass was my bedtime Mozart. A schooner cost 15 cents. A quart was 50 cents. By high school, I was doing my homework at the Mooner. No big deal as far as anyone in Bingham Canyon was concerned.

Times change. My house is gone. The bar is still there. Now it’s called the Ore House. All of us kids—Elkins, Vasquez, Mercado and the rest—were always in the Mooner buying snacks, sneaking in a game of pool or telling our dads that dinner was ready.

None was poisoned for life by seeing a beer being poured. None became a public-safety hazard. Some came to like a drink, and some did not. I’m no stranger to bars, and I’ve drunk about a quarter of what I’ve written about. That’s my research.

Brown is disingenuous. He made that statement about public safety when asked about a proposal to allow more than two bars per facing block in downtown Salt Lake City. Brown knows, and so should you, that no one has proposed more open bars. Utah licenced clubs and restaurants are allotted per population. There won’t be more bars, just more liquor outlets in close proximity to each other—and that gives a city life. The places on Main Street with any shelf life are the clubs, cafés and restaurants—evidenced most recently by the success of Keys on Main. People will come to Main Street for a good time, but not to buy shoes. Reporters always note that Main Street was thriving in the 1970s. They always fail to mention that three of Utah’s largest private clubs at the time all resided close to each other on Main Street: The Watergate, the Iron Horse and Ferraco’s, also known as the Sting and the Underground.
(And if any of our readers can tell me the former addresses of all three, I will send the first one who sends an e-mail or comments on our Website correctly a $50 gift certificate.)

Ogden’s Historic 25th Street has a score of clubs, bars and restaurants serving alcohol on both sides of the street equal in length to about two Salt Lake City blocks. Did someone vaccinate the people of Ogden? Are they immune—as most adults are and as the children of mature adults are—to the wild temptations of “open bars?” How about in Salt Lake City? Market Street between Main and West Temple already has three private clubs plus three restaurants serving liquor.

Three private clubs? Uh … what happened to the two-club rule? Isn’t liquor the same thing whether poured in a club or restaurant? Amateur city councils, I swear.

I can find no public safety issues anywhere on Market Street except for the soon-to-tumble historic Odd Fellows Hall. It’s standing there like a drunken sailor. It got all propped up and tilted by do-gooders who got it wrong. They always do.