JFK Terminal 8—It’s 9:22 a.m., and I’m learning about consumer safety from a food safety officer who’s on his second Bloody Mary. There’s nothing like alcohol to facilitate a serious conversation: I need to encourage young people, they tell me, to think about food security projects. He’s coming home from work, and I learn that he always drinks Bloody Marys when he travels, which is often, but he never drinks them at home. We move on to other topics: reincarnation, ExxonMobil, karma, trade union culture. The only thing that seemed off-limits was his full name (his job, he said, prevents him from talking to the media).
We’re sitting in the New York Sports Bar across from Gate 10, which is next to Solstice Sunglasses and a vending machine that sells ready-to-eat salads in plastic containers. In the corner, two blond women drink white wine. Traveler scratching his head: Does this bar serve French fries? The bartender says no, they don’t start serving French fries until 10:30. It’s almost time to eat French fries. But it is not too late for white wine.
By the time security spat me into JFK Terminal 8 at 7:02 am, the bar was already full of drinks. At least four bars had patrons, including O’Neal’s Restaurant (“a funky wood-paneled bar,” according to JFK’s book) and Bobby Van’s Grill (“beautiful beauty and luxury menu”). At JFK, beer service can begin at 6 a.m., the same time bars open at LAX. It was not the beginning of major airports. At MSP, outside of Minneapolis, the opening time was also 6 am but now it is 4 am; at Tokyo Narita Airport and London Heathrow, there are no restrictions. Morning drinking in airports is not only accepted but widespread, Kenneth Sher, an expert on alcohol addiction at the University of Missouri told me. The Internet has seen it again. “Are all these people drinking pints in the airport at 6am?” he was surprised Redditor in one of the many threads dedicated to this topic.
Outside of the airport, that’s not how drinking works—or, at least, not how it works in public. Morning drinking, with few exceptions (brunch, tailgating), tends to be “a sign of heavy drinking,” Sher said. Legally, they are not disappointed: Non-airport locations in New York State are not allowed to start drinking until 8 am (10 am on Sundays), and most stay until noon, if not happy hour, Andrew Rigie of. of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, he told me. But at the airport, the normal drinking rules don’t apply. “I’m not judging,” said Bobby Van’s Grill, pouring vodka into a pitcher of orange juice. “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”
I got up at 4 o’clock to get to the airport, and when I met the food manager, five hours later, I could have believed it was whatever time you told me. I really enjoyed the adrenaline rush, which made me feel good and sick, even though I didn’t do anything. In many cases, walking stops in different lines. I waited for people to check my ticket. I waited for different people to inspect my shoes. None of this made me want alcohol, although the idea of drinking in an airport seemed romantic, in a strange way.
At Bobby Van’s, perhaps the most venerable dining option in Terminal 8, I ate warm potatoes next to a sad man drinking coffee and red wine. For the most part, the terminal was quiet. How will I live? played, which seemed like a reasonable question. I watched a man in a zip-up cardigan eating eggs.
What are any of us doing here, drinking early morning drinks at Bobby Van’s airport? I am here because I am trying to answer this question. Some people have other reasons. You can, based on your experience, put together a basic set of airport drink prices. There is the solo business traveler who has time to kill and no interest in working. There is also a happy family whose drinks at the airport signal that the holiday has begun, and next to them, a festive group of friends. And then there is the calm traveler, motivated less by the excitement than by the surrounding terror of being in a pressurized steel tube at 36,000 feet.
For a place where everyone watches the clock, there is no real time in the airport. Michael Sayette, an alcohol researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, said: “When you look outside, you see only tarmac, just a few airplanes. There are a few signs that you should not drink, and maybe and happy time for you. “You have people from all over the world coming at different times,” he says. “Of course it was 5pm when he woke up.” The airport is perhaps best understood by the French artist Marc Augé is called “non-local:” an explosion in space and time. “A person who enters a place that is not a place is freed from what he has always known,” he wrote in his book on the subject. “He’s not above what he does or what he goes through as a rider.” Being alone at the airport is a wrong release, like insulting someone lightly.
When you go through security – the switch, in business parlance, between “side” and “plane” – you think about yourself. On the flip side, you’re still grounded in your normal life, which means you can come and go to hang out with your family and pack on as many ounces as you want. Airside, you have decided who you are. He has become a traveler. You don’t have a clear story and you don’t have a clear history. Are you someone who orders cocktails on weekday mornings? Who’s to say? You belong to the airport here.
So did everyone else there. There is a sense of unity: As fellow travelers, we are all trapped in the same timeless, spaceless boat. Why don’t you drink? “It’s a pleasure for people to do things that are usually organized, organized, time-wise, and then settle in a place where everything is fine,” said Edward Slingerland, author of the book. Drunkenness: How We Jumped, Danced, and Stumbled Development, he told me. Alcohol marks the transition from one order to another. “We use this, a little bit, at the end of the work day, to transition to a relaxing time at home,” he says. “Drinking in airports is a big brand of that. It’s a way to transition from our everyday life to the exotic thing we’re going to.”
From a bartender at a New York Sports Bar, I learn that women drink white wine and men order whiskey. I heard that at Terminal 4, where he worked until recently, he went through five or six bottles of prosecco every morning. Fortunately, for travelers, JFK does not have any options for drinking, including but not limited to Tigín Irish Pub, Soy & Sake Asian Eats, Blue Point Brewery, and Buffalo Wild Wings. And this is not counting the number of private lounges, where the elite (or those with certain credit cards) are fed snacks and waterless beer. The American Express Centurion Lounge in Terminal 4, in fact, has three different bars, including a Prohibition-inspired speakeasy with drinks designed by a James Beard Award-winning mixologist.
None of this is by accident. The modern airport creates a captive, thirsty audience. Janet Bednarek, an airport historian at the University of Dayton, said airports were accessible in other ways. Bars and shops and restaurants were open to everyone, and “airports rely on non-travellers to spend money,” he told me. Then 9/11 happened, airports were closed, security was tightened, and when you’re on the edge of an airplane, you pass the point of no return. At the airports, Bednarek said, that was a business opportunity rather than a problem: People were now arriving at the airport early in the morning, and they needed to do something to pass the time, whether it was shopping or eating or just hanging out at the airport. . “Airports are looking for any way they can to make money,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst, told me. Airports to pay for the flight large fines, and yet, before the plague, trade permits counted about 30 percent total airport revenue, according to Airports Council International data.
Here’s the thing about the airport, though: No one is in control. You can’t control the people sitting next to you, or their kids, or the security line, or the prepackaged sandwiches at CIBO Express. And most importantly, you can’t control when the plane arrives, or if it arrives, or how long the delay will be. More than 20 percent of the flights arriving in the US in the first three months of this year were delaythan that same stretch in every year since 2014. And that’s not even counting epic meltdowns which can leave travelers stranded for days. “In a way, beer can be the most important thing on a plane, because it allows you to relax from the boredom,” said Slingerland, who was at the airport when we spoke. “I’ve been on 10 flights in the last week and a half, and every single one has been delayed.” Alcohol, he explains, reduces your brain’s ability to focus, suppress distractions, delay gratification, and do everything you need to do to succeed in your daily life as a working adult. But you’re not an airport operator. You are a big boy with a suitcase.
There is, perhaps, a dark reading. “I think 80 percent of what you see are people who, in their normal lives, would never drink in the morning,” Slingerland said. But that leaves a lot of people whose routines are always on display at 7 a.m. No one at JFK seemed bothered by the white wine and whiskey passengers drink early in the afternoon, but it’s hard not to see. another sign of what everybody they keep to say: Americans drink a lot.
“Drinking alcohol is allowed in any other place where it was not allowed before,” he wrote Atlantic Ocean‘s Kate Julian in 2021. “Salons and boutiques sell cheap cava in plastic cups. Movie theaters drink beer, Starbucks drinks beer, zoo give alcohol.” A study published last year to follow One in five deaths among people aged 20 to 49 is alcohol related. One paper found that one in eight American adults drink this way met the requirements because of the problem of alcohol consumption, the number of which seems to increase during the epidemic. And drunken travelers cause problems. While drinking at all hours is useful at the airport, pilots are not exactly happy. “It’s unfair,” said a Ryanair executive words opposes stricter laws in 2017, “that airports can profit from selling unlimited alcohol to passengers and leave the airline to deal with security consequences.”
I thought that airport beer is not like international beer. But maybe drinking at the airport is no different at all. It still supports switching from one area to another – literally. It still gives the illusion of reducing the problems of everyday life. And it still promotes friendship. I thought about the food safety officer, who I spoke to for an hour and would never see again. Our conversation was interestingI thought. Why don’t I talk to people anymore? This is the wonderful duality of beer: It can disrupt and enrich the world. At the airport, you need both.