In an unprecedented political maneuver, voters have sent a strong message to California’s obese. Proposition 220, which outlaws obesity in California bars, was passed by an overwhelming majority and will go into effect March 1, 1998.
The law defines obesity somewhat ambiguously and will place the burden of enforcement on the owner of the establishment. It states that no persons “clearly carrying over 20 excess pounds on a non-athletic frame” will be allowed inside drinking establishments.
People who appear to be over the limit may be asked to present a valid picture identification with accurate height and weight information. All bars will receive a height and weight chart which outlines acceptable weights categorized by bone size. People who attempt to use false identification may be subject to fines as much as $150.
Recently discovered scientific evidence suggests that obesity and its counterpart, second-hand obesity, pose serious health risks, especially in bars. The article published six months ago in the New England Journal of Medicine linked obesity to such ills as “faster heart rate, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, impotence, gall stones, being unattractive, kidney failure, and an unhealthy heart which is layered in fat.” The article went on to state that the ingestion of alcohol seriously compounds these health risks, leading to a dangerous situation for both the obese and normally-sized bar patron.
The law had been suggested several times over the past few years but picked up increased support after the state of California lost a multi-million dollar class action suit filed by several bar employees and patrons who were injured following accidents caused by intoxicated, obese people.
“Being obese is simply not healthy, and we’re not going to tolerate it in California bars anymore. Habitual drinkers in this state should not have to be exposed against their will to the unnatractive consequences of an unhealthly lifestyle,” said state Attorney General Dan Lundgren. “The new law will bring about some unexpected bonuses as well, such as a reduction in the prevalence of second-hand obesity. The unhealthy foods that obese people consume will no longer tempt the thin people who just stop in for a beer.”
Those closely associated with the bar industry, however, view the law with suspicion.
“I don’t know about all that health stuff: heart attacks, aneurysms, liver malfunction…whatever. All I know is that I’ve got a lot of regulars who qualify as obese” says Lou Anderson, operator of the Sacramento bar, Louie’s Sud Hall, “I mean, these guys drink a lot, a lot, of beer. If they can’t come in here to do it, I stand to lose a lot of money. I mean, guys come in here every day after work and down all the Schlitz I can throw at them. Of course they’re gonna gain weight. And now they can’t be in here because it poses a health risk. I tell ya’ the overweights are a gravy train with biscuit wheels for bars. We’re gettin’ screwed.”
Others applaud the move.
“This is great,” says self-described skinny drinker Alan Morgan of San Francisco, “I can’t tell you how thrilling it will be not to have to put up with fat people when I go out drinking with my friends. Now I can get falling-down drunk in an extremely healthy environment, surrounded by my slim peers.”
It is unclear whether message laws such as this one are in fact enforcible. Fat friendly bars may find themselves subject to heavy fines or even, under extreme circumstances, loss of their liquor license. “It would be impossible for us to police every bar all the time,” commented the Attorney General, “in the beginning we’ll have to rely upon customer tips for our raids. I imagine, however, that as bar owners begin to see the obvious benefits of the ‘fat-free’ law, they will voluntarily comply. Whatever the case may be, I think this law serves its purpose in that it sends a clear message to the unhealthy: you infect our glorious state like so much bacteria.”
“How many times have you seem some overweight guy boozing it up at the bar and been genuinly worried?” asks Assemblyman Darrel Joiner “I mean, what if that guy has a huge heart attack, or falls and can’t get up or something. Then that ruins everybody’s evening. This new law removes that risk: everybody’s a winner.”