From spring through late summer in Mobile, Alabama, it’s crawfish season.
At least it was, until the nannies came along.
As local news website AL.com described it, the four seasons in Alabama are “beach, football, Mardi Gras and crawfish,” but only during crawfish season can you get a free meal. Crawfish boils are common along the Gulf Coast, where they are social events and frequently double as charity fundraisers.
Those free meals are now in jeopardy after bureaucrats started cracking down on the free outdoor crawfish feasts. Earlier this month, regulators shut down a crawfish boil at the popular Hayley’s Bar in downtown Mobile.
The bar got a citation from Mobile County health inspectors because it was boiling the crawfish outdoors (as is traditional) instead of in a kitchen.
It was later discovered that an aide to Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson had filed the initial complaint with Mobile County health inspectors, triggering the crackdown. In an email obtained by AL.com, aide Matt Anderson complained about “a considerable, unsanitary mess” at the crawfish boil hosted by Hayley’s Bar.
Anderson wasn’t worried about his own health, as he told health inspectors that he wasn’t attending the crawfish cookout, but was merely walking through the area during the city’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
One thing is sure: That guy has a promising career ahead of him, as he’s already mastered the skill of minding other people’s business.
After the health inspectors swooped in, the city issued a statement on May 20 telling all bars and restaurants to clean up their crawfish act.
It’s easy for people in the rest of the country to ignore the cultural significance of crawfish boils along the Gulf Coast, which isn’t as much of a fringe activity as it sounds. A Facebook group that tracks and publicizes free crawfish boils in the Mobile area has more than 1,800 members.
Many members, as might be expected, don’t seem too enthused about the city’s crawfish crackdown.
“I’d like to know if there has been incidents that lead to the need to protect us from rampaging crawfish boils,” wrote Kristeena Baxley, on the group’s page. She facetiously suggested that government might need to get involved if drunks were falling into the boiling pots or if there were reports of people being poisoned by free crawfish.
“The crawfish boils were so uniquely (sic) to this neighborhood and it’s a real shame to see it regulated into nonexistence,” she said.
“Bars around Mobile have been serving crawfish for 20 years,” wrote Denise Bolling. “All of a sudden this is an issue?”
Apparently so. The city has reached a deal to allow so-called “private clubs” to continue to hold crawfish boils, but bars are still largely being kept crawfish free, unless the boiling is done in a kitchen or off-site.
If there’s a legitimate health issue, and records of people being sickened or otherwise endangered by crawfish boils, then government has some role to play here. That doesn’t seem to be the case.
J.D. Crowe, a columnist for AL.com, gets the final word on this matter. After the crawfish kerflouffle broke out in Mobile, he suggested one possible explanation for the Nanny State feeding frenzy.
“Maybe these ‘health people’ aren’t really from Mobile. Maybe they’re from some communist place up north, like Russia or Chicago,” he suggested.
Or, worse, he added: “Maybe they’re bitter mutant crawfish.”
That’s pretty much the best description of over-active government officials we’ve ever heard.
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This article originally appeared at Watchdog.org.
Eric Boehm is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.