'Four Drink Maximum' Drive-Up Bar Stirs Up Controversy, Which Was the Point

Ah, the old bait and switch.

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Dec 13 2018, 2:30pm

Screenshot via Twitter

If you’ve been to New Orleans—assuming you remember your time spent in New Orleans, or at least have a friend who was sober enough to remind you—you might have made a stop at one of the city’s drive-thru daiquiri stands. Louisiana has been passing slushy alcoholic drinks through our driver’s side windows since the early 1980s, since well before the state had laws against drinking and driving.

The laws have changed, obvs, and these daiquiri stands are allowed to exist thanks to a slightly sketchy sounding compromise, which requires the booze to be frozen, the cups to remain sealed, and the straws to stay taped to the side as long as they’re in the vehicle.

But a new drive-up bar in Johannesburg, South Africa is taking things a step further. Although its patrons will have to park their cars before they order their first drink, its manager did say that drivers will be limited to four drinks at a time. If your jaw just ricocheted off your shoelaces, congratulations, you have solid critical thinking skills. You also fell for exactly what this bar was selling—and it’s not cold beer.

Earlier this week, the bar’s organizers announced that it was about to open on the side of a busy road in Johannesburg, close to a shopping mall. A promotional video explains that the idea for One on Nicol—named for its location on William Nicol drive—came from beer vending machines in Tokyo and drive-thru liquor stores in Australia. “I thought, ‘Why couldn’t this idea work back home,’” owner Justin Le Grange said. “And here we are.”

The response to the idea was somewhere between angry and furious, as the bar’s Twitter mentions were filled with local residents who were upset that they hadn’t been consulted about the idea, as well as more globally minded individuals who argued that the bar was just going to lead to drinking and driving.

And that was the point. This bar doesn’t exist. Its owner “Justin Le Grange” doesn’t exist. The entire thing was a stunt designed by the Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education (Aware.org), a non-profit organization that campaigns against drinking and driving—and they pulled it off well. (Even the Johannesburg Police Department had no idea that it was a prank. “They would definitely need a liquor license to do something like that,” a police spokesperson told News24. “If this is going to happen, then we're going to have a roadblock right outside there.”)

“Joburg commuters were divided this week when a teaser for a ‘first-to-South Africa’ pop-up store situated on William Nicol Drive, was revealed to be a drive-through bar, aptly named #OneOnNicol,” Aware.org said in a statement. “The controversy around the drive-through bar has forced South Africans to actively re-think their drinking habits and thought patterns when it comes to getting behind the wheel or walking home after just one drink ahead of the festive season.”

After the big reveal, the response to the prank was still mixed. Some people were relieved that a drive-up bar wasn’t actually going to happen, some thought the entire campaign was in poor taste, and others were willing to admit that the organization pulled this off pretty well. “So I've followed this all day and after my outrage and anger I've found out this was a very emotive and evoking awareness campaign,” South African environmentalist Catherine Constantinides tweeted. “I was totally besides myself... but take a look at what this brilliant campaign tried to achieve.”

So, a friendly reminder: Drinking and driving is a terrible idea, and it shouldn’t take a well-orchestrated bait-and-switch to remind us of that.