Alcohol in theme parks-Great profit or guest trouble?


Kennywood theme park in Pennsylvania announced Thursday (Read more here) that they will attempt to get a liquor license for the park and sell alcohol in designated areas. The announcement immediately sent conservative and “family friendly” supporters into a frenzy. Many claim that serving beer will somehow take the parks into dangerous territory by bringing in “irresponsible drinkers” to a family friendly atmosphere. However, theme parks all over the country have been serving beer (and other alcohol) for years. So it brings up the age old debate. Should alcohol be served in theme parks where families are vacationing or spending time together?


Twitter was alive with arguments from both sides about having alcohol served in Kennywood.


Kennywood is traditionally a family theme park, in a very conservative part of Pennsylvania. But they aren’t the only ones who serve alcohol. Busch Gardens theme parks started out as a garden attached to the Anheuser Busch breweries. Busch Gardens Tampa was designed to attract people to the brewery tour. It was later expanded to include rides, and eventually the brewery was shut down. The parks grew, and up until 2009 had a “hospitality house” where guests could sample Anheuser Busch products. The parks even featured a “Beer School” that gave more samples, and taught guests how to pair food and beer. EPCOT’s World Showcase area has so many alcoholic choices that there is an unofficial drinking game at the park called “Drinking Around the World”. In fact the only two Orlando area theme parks that do not sell alcohol are the Magic Kingdom and Legoland Florida. The question has been debated time and time again, should it be allowed?

Drinking around kids

The biggest debate is the fact that theme parks attract families. At the same time theme parks attract people of legal drinking age without families. You don’t allow kids in bars around those who drink, so why would you let drinkers into theme parks around kids?
The answer is simple and defined. Money. There is usually a large mark up on alcohol in theme parks, even more so than in bars. Theme parks use alcohol to make a lot of money without having to put a lot of money into it.
But why allow theme parks to sell alcohol where there are kids present? Two reasons-Because people buy it, and because families still come. Once one of those sides starts to outweigh the others parks will continue to serve alcohol. There’s also this inherent fear that the kids will be molested, or turn into some raging alcoholic incapable of controlling themselves just because someone has a few beers in the same general area.
So should it be allowed when precious little children are present? Let’s face it, you go to restaurants where alcohol is served and things aren’t usually out of control. You also probably have alcohol in the house. It boils down to your morals as a parent. Are you comfortable with your kids being around people that drink? Sure vacation isn’t the best place to deal with it, but neither is Christmas when grandma has a little too much eggnog and pees herself. It’s going to happen in some of the most inopportune places, but as a parent you kind of have to prepared to deal with anything at anytime. Are you prepared to acknowledge that drinking exists and educate your child about the dangers of alcohol, or being responsible?
I am a parent of two children, one being a teenager and the other being a pre-teen. I enjoy drinking at theme parks, and may have one with my kids present. Does that make me a bad parent? It makes my kids aware that alcohol is present, and they see dad being responsible by not driving and not over indulging. It’s not a theme parks job to play moral police, or do your job as a parent. It’s also your right as a parent to completely by pass theme parks that serve alcohol, if you feel that strongly about it. Chances are the theme park will not stop selling alcohol, and you’ll miss out on family time in a fun atmosphere.

Modified Behavior

One of the biggest concerns about drinking in theme parks is the fact that when irresponsible people over indulge, they become loud, obnoxious and not a lot of fun to be around. However, the actual amount of people drunk in a park is far fewer than you might think. The biggest reason is because drinking in a theme park is expensive. The cost of a six pack of beer at the store runs about $7 dollars. A single beer in a bar runs about $4 Dollars. That same beer in a theme park is going to be about $7 dollars. If it takes a person six beers to get drunk, that’s going to cost them close to $50 dollars (plus tip) to get completely knockdown drunk. Most reasonable people won’t spend that much on alcohol in a theme park.
There are certain events and occasions where it will happen, and people are more likely to over indulge. Events such as Halloween events tend to have a more festive party atmosphere. Also events that concentrate on a festival atmosphere might have a larger percentage of heavy drinkers. Two examples are Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. At HHN people drink for several reasons, including courage. At Epcot the emphasis is on Food and WINE. There are several booths that serve specialty drinks only during this time of year, so people are more apt to over indulge.
During these events the parks tend to amp up the security quite a bit with not only their own security force, but also the local police. Also parks tend to follow the same logic as bars do. If a person appears to be intoxicated they are not served. Also, as the night goes on the more people tend to drink, this applies for the regular park visit as well. So, as the rule always goes, get to the parks early.
Otherwise, let your wallets do the talking and don’t visit parks that serve alcohol…which is growing every season as more parks find out just how much money they can make serving.