For many, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is about having a drink, not a dream

This weekend we celebrate the life and legacy of a crusader for change, civil rights, an end to the war in Vietnam and the plight of poor people.

How, you ask? Excellent question.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, like many federal holidays, doesn't lay down guidelines for proper observance. The government and banks just close up shop, allowing those of us who have an employer who acknowledges federal holidays to sleep in an extra day. Some cities offer cultural enrichment opportunities like parades and festivals. But honestly, it's not comparable to Thanksgiving or New Year's, where you pretty much know what your plans are.

That's why MLK Day has become part of a growing list of unofficial drinking holidays. The great-granddaddy, Cinco de Mayo, joined American consciousness as a celebration of freedom and victory in battle, but has morphed into $9.99 Corona-rita's at Beef 'O' Brady's and bros wearing sombreros and getting tanked by the pool.

After many years, it joined America's list of official drinking holidays alongside St. Patrick's Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and New Year's Eve.

It's the natural evolution of a holiday we don't understand.

Now, most local bars aren't so brazen as to market their parties this weekend under the banner of Dr. King, but make no mistake, just about every place worth visiting is hoping to draw massive crowds on Sunday night.

Two local trailblazers, Club Skye and Prana, have deigned to remind you that you probably have Monday off. On Friday night, Club Prana asks potential revelers to come "Party like Kings" with a flier that uses the icon's face as a watermark layered over a photo of a sea of dancers. It's marketing idea that's bound to catch a few eye rolls but is pointedly eye catching.

Wild 94.1 and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams are hosting Club Skye's Sunday night party, titled "It's the NFL on MLK", which promises celebrities, a performance by Numbas and free drinks and admission for ladies until midnight. It's not exactly a community dialogue, but should we be limiting those to one day a year anyway?

In the future, I predict Columbus Day and even Easter (for non-observers) may make the unofficial drinking holiday list. The criteria are simple. You just need a long weekend and no major plans. Two veteran one-day drink-fests, Independence Day and Halloween, will become three-day experiences this year because both fall on Fridays. Coupled with St. Patty's falling on a Monday, that's seven definite and two possible weekends to damage your liver and make Instagram memories that will haunt your employment opportunities long term. Pace yourselves, everyone. It's still January.

If all you really want to do on this weekend is drink cheap wells and shake it to bass-heavy Florida rap, I say have at it. A paid day off is a reason to celebrate. If, along the way, you decide to pick up a book about a man who fought for equality, that's cool too. You can read it on Monday as you nurse your hangover.

— rmitchell@tampabay.com

For many, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is about having a drink, not a dream 01/16/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 16, 2014 3:15pm]

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