Fort Lauderdale Bus Loop: Charitable Drinking Leads to Looney Mayhem On Saturday
The CDC defines binge drinking as a man consuming more than five drinks, and a woman four, in a span of two hours. Well, this past Saturday at Fort Lauderdale Bus Loop's third event of the year, some attendees boasted eight drinks in that time. But don't worry, the proceeds went to charity. This is one hangover everyone can feel good about.
It began early on Saturday night with well-mannered 30-something professionals at Blue Martini, but as the trolley continued its wayward path, the crowd got younger, drunker, and more libidinous.
With Bud Lights and vodka cranberries the drink of choice, the bus loop was not so much about trying signature concoctions as it was a circus, where bartenders and trolley drivers were left serving entitled drunks who forgot to tip. Stumbling across A1A, Las Olas, and Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard in search of the next
booze trolley stop, the drunk led the even more drunk for a night of bibulous debauchery.
Fort Lauderdale's bus loop began in August 2007 and most riders on Saturday had already attended one before. However, it was this reporter's first. Seeing the daunting list of nine venues and the included drink on arrival, I parked opposite the commotion at the mall --there was an estimated 1,800 attending-- at a parking meter and pre-gamed with espresso shots at Starbucks. I was inducted into the charitable bar crawl with a fluorescent orange wristband and drink card at the entrance of the Galleria Mall.
8:05 p.m.: Blue Martini
Approximately 17 footsteps from the check-in table, Blue Martini was almost at capacity as a live band performed Top 40 favorites behind the neon-lit bar. No rowdy drunks yet, the crowd preferred to sing along with Shakira's Hips Don't Lie instead of dancing --it was after all only the first spot and no one wanted to risk spilling drinks on their outfits this early in the night. Service was quick as a bartender whipped up my vodka tonic without looking. Another drink card for after 11 p.m. was handed out on exit to lure bus loop riders back at the night's end.
8:32 p.m.: Sandbar
The one drink seemed to have an instant effect on the older working crowd, whose livers weren't used to metabolizing blood sugars as efficiently as their younger counterparts who walked ahead for the bus stop, anxious for their next drink. With Guns N' Roses playing and sticky beer-soaked floors, Sandbar attracted a younger, less-polished crowd. Upon arrival, most quickly stampeded past the ground floor bar and second floor sports loungeto the rooftop bar. There they found a refreshing ocean breeze. But the line to the bar was long and most complained in grunts and eye rolls. Then it started drizzling.
8:51 p.m.: Red Dog Cantina
Once it started raining, the masses flocked for cover across the street inside Red Dog Cantina. This influx of thirsty patrons overwhelmed the bartending staff of two at the center bar. With restless guests reaching over the counter and waving drink cards and one dollar bills, the one bartender avoided eye contact and popped the caps off Bud Lights direct from the wholesale cardboard box so quickly she looked to be in a robotic trance. Bouncers quickly shut the doors and started a queue outside. This upset bus loopers since it was still raining.
9:03 p.m.: McSorley's Beach Pub
The brick alley outside McSorley's back entrance became an impromptu hangout because the bouncer did not let anyone bring drinks inside. Most seemed unperturbed by the precipitation. Inside, McSorley's seemed quiet in comparison to the other places. Seated in the air-conditioning and out of the rain, most people complained about the recent experience at Red Dog Cantina and began sipping their fourth drink to forget it.
9:14 p.m.: Tropic Cay
Back on the trolley again, the inebriated masses were bussed further south to Tropic Cay, where the wafts of barbecued meat hit you before you walked inside. The line for the barbecue almost reached the line to the bar. When we left no one had jumped in the pool, but the servers feared mutiny.
9:32 p.m.: S3
Everyone's sixth drink was catching up with them. A group of girls unintentionally blocked the entryway with their flash twerk. Segregating the bus loop crowd from S3's refined denizens, those with orange wristbands were only served outside. Because of the high numbers, bus loopers were sardined but not unhappy. Even though the drink lines were long, girls queued up for the vodka lemonade. The guys however hoped for something more, err, masculine (or at least without mint leaves) and waited on the sidelines.
9:54 p.m.: Quarterdeck
The staff at Quarterdeck had a game plan and served the hordes in a makeshift tent/bar outside, as opposed to the inside bar, which had limited space. The bartenders quickly served rum punch from an orange Rubbermaid cooler frat party style. At this point in the night, cliques of girls giggled in cringing shrieks as they took poorly-aimed selfies on their smartphones with their best duck faces on. The taco stop was just next door.
10:05 p.m.: Taco Beach
Literally taking over the street, the throng of bus loopers blocked traffic to form a line to the tacos. Everyone seemed to want something to absorb the alcohol, and the chef estimates he made 500 tacos at that point in the night. Instead of getting impatient, lined guests passed the time by playing hackey sack with the aluminum wrapper of a littered taco. With your choice of chicken or beef, tacos were served with cheese, salsa, and jalapenos. The tacos were bland and needed hot sauce added to it, based on the clamor of falling glass bottles of hot sauce, the drunk masses seemed to agree too.
11:19 p.m.: in front of Sopranos
Jumping on the trolley for the last location, I got sidetracked by the flashing cop lights that shined on two boys sitting on an unmarked cop car's hood and didn't follow the rest of the group to Sopranos immediately. While the charges were unclear (there was a handle of vodka on the car roof but no one was breathalyzed), an arrest report was written and the boys soon went on their way. As I made my way towards Sopranos, I reached the escalator as the bleary-eyed group from the trolley was exiting. When I asked if it was good upstairs, the girl simply said "mhm" as she struggled to hold her head up. Realizing the drink cards expired at 11 p.m., I took the trolley back to my car at the night's starting point. On board, two drunk girls began making out which led the group of barely 21-year-old boys sitting next to them to stop chanting and huddle around the girls to take pervy iPhone video. When the trolley arrived at the mall, the girls seemed unfazed (or unaware) of their audience or even that the vehicle had reached its destination.
As the doors closed behind me, the driver warned through the rear view mirror that the trolley stops at midnight. It was 11:37 p.m. and his tip jar was empty.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Find out about upcoming events and special offers happening in the South Florida dining scene.