Marolt: Sending our children on the Highway to Nell

Roger Marolt
Roger This

What’s the big deal about The Little Nell restaurants serving liquor to minors? Sure, it’s against the law, but that doesn’t mean the law necessarily makes sense.

First of all, it’s summer. While study after study proves beyond doubt that consuming alcohol can severely inhibit the development of a juvenile brain, there are nearly as many studies showing that kids’ brains shut down during the summer months. This is the primary push behind year-round schooling. By extension of thought, as well as through observation, I think we all can agree that kids’ brains shut down not only during all vacations any time of year (like in Aspen) but just about anytime they are not engaged in formal educational programs.

If this is true, what’s the harm in soaking brain cells that aren’t developing anyway? It’s like poking a stick at a hibernating bear. Nothing is going to happen — most of the time.

For another thing, as we have argued over and over again, the Prohibition experiment in the U.S. in the 1920s through the early ’30s was a miserable failure. This conclusion is supported by experts advocating the legalization of just about everything ever since.

Along these lines, you don’t have to be an overly analytical person to see that the contrivance of a somewhat arbitrary legal drinking age by the legislatures is nothing more than the continuation of the Prohibition era for kids. Now, if Prohibition didn’t work for adults, what makes us think it is working for kids? Teenagers have far more energy, they are way more resourceful, and they posses a much higher level of intolerance for authority than most adults do.

Think of the underground speakeasies that many adults dodged the law in during the years when alcoholic beverages were illegal in this country, and then think about your living room on a Saturday night when you and the missus are out of town while your teenager is at home keeping an eye on things. Now you see the parallels. If you add it all up, it is disingenuous for adults to say that Prohibition was a disastrous policy for adults on the one hand but works very well for kids on the other.

As all of us in Colorado have been convinced, smoking marijuana is no more harmful than drinking booze. This means that drinking booze is no more harmful than smoking pot. So can’t we just say it? Neither smoking pot nor drinking booze is harmful!

There was the argument that, by legalizing pot in Colorado, we could attach a new tax onto the sale of it that would serve to benefit our education system. A strong argument can be made that this sales tax unfairly burdens people who smoke a ton of pot and have almost no interest in education. Why not jigger the formula a little bit? If we legalize pot and booze for kids and tax both heavily if you choose to buy it when you’re younger than 21, at least kids will then be participating in the financing of their own educations. It’s an opportunity to teach children responsibility and how to take ownership of their futures!

But I have digressed. This discussion began about The Little Nell getting busted for selling a few watermelon daiquiris to a couple of precocious high schoolish-looking liquor-license-compliance narcs, and I turned it into a soapbox for national policy on drinking reform. I didn’t need to go there because kids drinking at The Little Nell can be analyzed and seen in a positive light on a much simpler level.

The fact of the matter is that drinking at The Little Nell is a lesson in responsible drinking for all of us, not just kids. When you consider an appropriate tip for a place like that, a kid on the average wage earned on a local summer job who is planning on going to a movie later in the evening could possibly have enough money to buy only one drink for himself and maybe split another with a friend at any of the restaurants in The Little Nell, and that’s only if he is willing to go without anything to eat that night. Remember, we are talking about teenagers here.

I applaud The Little Nell and its own very effective policy on responsible drinking. It can forget any proposed legislation to limit the size of the portions it serves, too. It is a strong case made for the free market handling a perceived problem. As in all things, moderation is the key. Parents who care about their children could do far worse than sending them to The Little Nell to drink.

Roger Marolt is saving up for a drinking binge at The Little Nell when it reopens in November. Contact him at


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