A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
The early bird gets the worm. It has been established and long talked about. But has anyone stopped to ask said bird what he or she actually wants? Maybe she wouldn’t say “worm” at all. Maybe she’s had a long week and she wants to make the best of her weekend, and she’s been looking forward to brunch for days. Days! Maybe she’s been cooped up in the apartment doing nothing but fighting for space on the couch with her dog and watching a brain-zapping House Hunters marathon since there’s not much else to do on a rainy Sunday, but she just happens to be an early riser and she just happens to get hungry within 20 minutes of waking up. Seriously, she’s clocked it. It doesn’t matter if it’s 4:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. (not that she ever sleeps that late, being an early bird as she is). Maybe if you asked her, “what do you want early bird?” she’d say without hesitation: “a nice, juicy, meaty, toothsome
worm Bloody Mary. And thank you for asking! No one ever does.”
Well, tough luck, chickadee. Because in NYC, no restaurant can serve any alcoholic beverage before noon on a Sunday. It’s called a “blue law,” and it’s an old holdover from the days when it was okay to blur that pesky line between church and state because back then if you weren’t in church, you were not exactly Mr. Popularity. They were invented by—who else?—the Puritans, and they were generally designed to prevent people from engaging in any sort of sinful activity on the Christian Sabbath, including but not limited to: gambling, boozing, having sex, engaging in most forms of commerce, not going to church, kissing, cooking, wearing lace (?), hunting, and myriad other forms of recreating and hooting and hollering about on God’s day of rest. Many, many (most) blue laws around the country have been reversed by their generally unconstitutional nature, what with their operating on the assumption that everyone observes the same Christian moral code. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just not my moral code. My moral code involves enjoying a quiet morning brunch with a delightful cocktail and then going out and supporting our economy with a little retail activity. I’m comfortable with that.
It seems that in 2006, Governor Pataki chipped away at our blue laws by allowing beer to be sold starting at 8am on Sundays. But. You can’t make a Bloody Mary with beer. I mean really, what is this? The strange part is that this weekend was the first time I’d been made aware of this silly old law, but it’s most certainly not my first time out at brunch before noon on a Sunday. So either I need to pay more attention to the fact that I’m suddenly craving morning vodka (seems unlikely), or there are some restaurants around these parts who quietly engage in a little civil disobedience.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is a local government priority, but it seems a little foolish not to have scratched out this law by now. Lots of the other states have. And aren’t we supposed to be, like, cool? And aren’t restaurants and their staff missing out on some potentially serious dough? And wouldn’t now be a great time to maximize dough-expenditure in this city? I’ll tell you a secret: the people who want a Bloody Mary at 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday probably still aren’t going to go to church if they can’t have one. It’s not exactly our plan B. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.
With the rise in popularity of the speakeasy-style bar around here, I wonder if maybe someone should open up an actual speakeasy serving contraband brunch cocktails between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. It could be run out of someone’s apartment or basement or laundry room or something, and the password could be “Eggs Florentine” or “Multigrain Banana Pancakes” or something, and people could just come in their bowler hats and flapper dresses and read the paper or chat with friends and eat a bagel and drink a couple Mimosas and then be on their merry way!
Sigh. Perhaps one day we’ll truly be free. In the meantime, it feels good to have a cause.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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