Is The New Orleans "Go Cup" About To Go Bye-Bye?

There’s a weird thing in New Orleans (yeah, just the one). It’s plastic. It can be carried in public. And it tends to be, as are many things in NOLA, full up with naughtiness. It’s the “go cup.”

In most places in the world, something like the go cup wouldn’t work out. Sure, we’re allowed to take that half of a dry turkey burger and seven soggy fries home with us, but what about the near-full Abita beer we ordered with it? Yeah, no luck; you either chug that beer in defiance or trust it’s going down the drain — or someone’s drain — after you leave. What a loss.

Maybe it makes sense that the go cup is a New Orleans fixture. Only the city that celebrates the ultimate loss with a rowdy funeral parade could find a way to both avoid such a loss and make street drinking a joyful part of the culture.

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So how do you get a go cup? Easy. Either don’t finish your drink at a New Orleans bar, preferably in the French Quarter, or simply order a drink “to go.” Don’t feel like going into an establishment? (That is a lot of work, actually.) You can just walk up to a sidewalk window and order a go cup, ideally in the form of a Huge Ass BeerTM” (it is actually trademarked). Hate walking entirely? No fear, there’s NOLA’s famous daiquiri drive-thrus, where you can order the frozen, sweet version of the classic drink in huge quantities and, as long as the straw isn’t inserted and the lid isn’t punctured, legally drive with it.

The go cup has been an essential factor of New Orleans culture, and yes, a thrill to tourists who’d never encountered a plastic “to go” cocktail. But it’s really not the exclusive province of Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras. Go cups have been a year- round tradition for locals, one of the ways the Big gets so Easy.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how much you care for public intoxication), they’re facing some heat from the government. Over the past several years, in fact, there’s been a small campaign to rid the Crescent City of its go cups. No doubt in the name of civility or whatever. But seriously?

OK, calm down. (Sort of talking to ourselves here, too.) Despite the fervor a potential ban on street alcohol might reasonably induce, it looks like there never was any citywide initiative to ban go cups at all. Instead, according to a press release, the City Council acknowledged that it isn’t a citywide ban they’re looking for but more careful regulations, including denying certain residential-area bars the right to distribute go cups at last call.

Not an unreasonable move. Another wise play: they also wanted businesses to put their names on the cups, which would allow the city to keep track of which establishments yielded the most go-cup litter. (Part of what they call a “Good Neighbor Agreement,” which we have to assume is essential in a city with as much public drinking and questionable bead distribution practices as New Orleans.)

For now, anyway, it looks like go cups are here to stay, but only in certain establishments. Which are clearly worth seeking out. And then leaving. With your go cup.

Header image via gary yim /