On June 6, Denver will see its last Thirst Friday — because this summer, one of Colorado's biggest cultural assets will also become a liquid asset. As of July 1, the state can start issuing art-gallery permits that allow galleries to serve (not sell) alcohol for four hours a day, fifteen days a year — as long as each gallery pays a $50 fee to the state, a $25 fee to its municipality, and generally behaves itself (limiting crowds to no more than 250 people, for example).
Raise a glass to assorted lawmakers for getting House Bill 08-1105 through the Colorado Legislature and creating this aesthetically pleasing loophole in state liquor laws, and to Governor Bill Ritter for signing it into law this week. With any luck, the new rules will prevent the sort of inane art attack that other parts of the country are seeing as the prudey police clamp down on the brie-and-Chablis crowd.
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In the tony East Hamptons, cops raided several art shows last weekend, ticketing gallery owners and handcuffing one. "The police out here have nothing to do, so they come bother our galleries," gallery owner Ruth Kalb told the New York Post. "They came in here with all their muscles. They needed someone to fight." And so they picked out a 67-year-old whose gallery was serving wine at a photography show opening.
Seattle, too, reports crackdowns on those getting mild in the streets.
But this past session, Colorado legislators wisely recognized that there are much bigger public nuisances than art galleries that attract art lovers — or simply people who like to get out and about on the first Friday of every month. Now all the galleries need to do is apply for the permits, then observe the letter of the law and their own districts' dictates. The Art District on Santa Fe, for example, plans to keep its First Friday events dry — and channel the thousands of people who show up on the first Friday of the month into the neighborhood's bars and restaurants, including the Santa Fe Tequila Company, El Noa Noa and the excellent Continental Club, when they start thirsting for more than artistic fulfillment. Galleries in that district will instead be encouraged to use those permits to serve alcohol at non-First Friday events.
Either way, the local art scene is worth celebrating — and now we can toast it properly.