Magic Kingdom No Longer a “Dry” Park Against Walt’s Wishes

| September 13, 2012

When Walt Disney first designed the Magic Kingdom, he made it clear that alcohol was not to be sold. The concept for the park was to be “family oriented” with children and their parents enjoying time together. Much unlike what happens at some carnivals, state fairs, or non-Disney theme parks, an adult member of the family would not hand out tickets and allow the kids to adventure on their own while he went to the bar or beer stand. Instead, the concept would encourage families to spend time together enjoying the various attractions. Today, Disney announced a major change in its policy against serving alcohol at the Magic Kingdom: beer and wine will be sold at the new Be Our Guest restaurant in Fantasyland.

 

Image: Be Our Guest restaurant will serve beer and wine during dinner at the Magic Kingdom.

I have to admit that I am most excited to see this new eatery once it opens in November. Disney advertises it as a “majestic ballroom with 20-foot ceilings, elegant chandeliers and a wall of 18-foot-tall windows that overlook the French countryside where a light snow is falling; the Rose Gallery, with a large music box centerpiece that’s almost 7 feet tall, with Belle and the Beast slowly twirling atop; and the forbidden, dramatic West Wing, with the warm glow of the Beast’s enchanted rose.” Meals here will be interactive thanks to the creativity of Disney Imagineering and a menu designed to match the theatrics.

 

 

Images: Dinner at the restaurant is meant to be interactive and elegant.

 

With this being said, I never expected Disney to announce that alcohol would be served in Be Our Guest. If Walt Disney felt strongly that the Magic Kingdom should remain a family-friendly park not serving, isn’t this going directly against his wishes? How difficult was it for Disney Parks to keep one place free from alcohol when it is served everywhere else – Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom? According to Stuart McGuire, Beverage Director for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, adding beer and wine to the menu is a conscious decision to match the theming of the restaurant’s French-inspired cuisine. “The wines focus primarily on France’s famous wine-growing regions, including Champagne, Alsace, Loire, Rhone, Burgundy and Bordeaux,” he explained.

 

Image: The beer and wine list at Be Our Guest restaurant in Fantasyland.

 

I understand that telling a story is important and keeping with a theme is a must. Still, I’m not sure that breaking Walt’s wishes is an entirely good idea. Many of us have witnessed the occasional raucous behavior resulting from “drinking around the world” in Epcot. Could this happen in Magic Kingdom? Could the concept of a “family-friendly” park be harmed by those who indulge a little too much? Does this mean that more parents will choose to utilize the resort kids’ clubs and select Be Our Guest as a “night out” option?

Disney recently released details about a quick service option titled Gaston’s Tavern. Here, guests will be able to purchase meals along with a signature beverage, LeFou’s Brew. Although the beverage is alcohol-free, doesn’t a tavern genuinely lend itself to selling alcohol? If “guest demand” is great based on what is sold at Be Our Guest, couldn’t one imagine Gaston serving in the future as well? After all, he and his tavern pals did partake in a few brewskies in the film itself.

 

Image: LeFou’s Brew is to be served at Gaston’s Tavern.

 

On the flipside, if beer and wine are truly just being served table-side and not at a walk-up bar or quick service eatery, would this really impact the park? Unlike Epcot, which has saki bars, alcoholic beverage stands, and the like, alcohol in the Magic Kingdom supposedly will only be available during dinner service at Be Our Guest and no “to-go” cups will be for sale. This is similar to what takes place at Disneyland park in California. Alcoholic beverages there are served in the infamous Club 33 restaurant without issue. Could that be the case in Florida’s sister park?

What do you think about this change at Walt’s Magic Kingdom? Do you think Disney is making a smart move going against his original vision of a “dry” theme park for adults and children alike? I guess only time will tell.

 

Image Credits: Disney Media


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Category: Disney World, Editorials, News

About the Author ()

Born and raised in New Jersey, Nicole is an avid Disney fan and frequents both Walt Disney World and Disneyland several times each year. Interests include Walt Disney Imagineering, merchandise, backstage tours, and more. Be sure to check out her other articles here on the DIS Blog!
  • kwitcherkicken99

    This is horrible. I think the expansion is a great addition to the park, but serving alcohol in the Magic Kingdom is a direct slap in the face of the Disney family AND its creator’s wishes. There is no reason the head of the Parks should have gone with this idea in the first place – but it seems that greed is a driving force. Poor move!

  • mrs_d_a

    I have to say, I was a bit on the fence over if this would be a counter serve or table serve destination for me. One glance at the wine & beer list changed that. I will make a point of having dinner here now. This looks like a wonderful restaurant with a complete experience now. Looking forward to it!

  • focalpoint

    Walt was no teetotaler. In fact, his favorite drink was a scotch and water (right after work). So, why no alcohol in the parks?

    Walt’s decision to exclude alcoholic beverages from the Magic Kingdom theme parks dates all the way back to his search for Disneyland East. One of the original possible locations was St. Louis, Missouri (due to its proximity to Walt’s boyhood hometown of Marceline). According to legend, once Adolphus Busch heard about this possibility he threw in full support – wanting to be one of the local monetary sponsors. He thought it would be a great opportunity for Busch Beer and openly suggested that his company’s beer be the only alcoholic beverage served in the park. Offended, Walt told Adolph that the intention was to make Disneyland a family-friendly park; free of alcohol.

    Not only did Walt not build in St. Louis – but, ever since then – it was decided that the Magic Kingdoms would be “dry” parks. It should be noted: Disney’s official language is that St. Louis was ultimately decided against due to the inclement weather (which is certainly plausible).

  • lvdis

    I have to say I am not pleased with this. I guess it’s all about making money now.

  • timmac

    Meh. I don’t take too strong an opinion on this either way, though I lean slightly to thinking that a nice beer or wine can greatly add to a meal.

    So much of the objection to this that I’ve seen plays the “Walt’s wishes” thing as a sort of universal trump card, which I don’t necessarily buy. He only ever directly spoke for the Disneyland park… everything else came after. Keeping in mind his views then were now some 60 years ago, to make assumptions about what he’d think today includes quite a bit of speculation.

  • Mindy5767

    Walt also did say that the parks would always be changing and evolving with the times. This is a French restaurant, and a fancy one at that. I completely agree with the imagineers here. Its an integral part of the French meal experience, and thus goes with the themeing. Club 33 has been serving alcohol in their private confines for years without problems. If Disney keeps it to this restaurant only, and during dinner only, with no carry-out, I think it will be just fine. The number of park guests during the dinner hours, who score an ADR, and choose to purchase wine will be a small fraction of the overall park guests. I am sure that if it becomes a problem, they can discontinue the wine/beer offerings. I doubt it will.

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