Raleigh’s new publicly financed outdoor music venue opens this weekend with the matter of its name still unsettled. Anheuser-Busch, the beer-making goliath, and local distributor Harris Wholesale have offered $1.5 million if the city agrees to call it the Bud Light Amphitheater. The city council seems agreeable to this, mostly because it has the thankless job of figuring out how to pay for things when money is tight. But others have qualms.
The only objection that rings true to me came from a woman named Karen Kranbuehl, who asked the council to refuse the money because people with substance abuse problems might feel insulted by the name, and because it sets a bad example for children. It’s not that I find that argument persuasive; frankly, it’s pretty limp, as far as reasoning goes. But she’s the chairwoman-elect of the council’s Substance Abuse Advisory Commission. It’s what she ought to say, so I take it at face value.
To everyone else who objects to this deal on the basis that it’s inappropriate to name the venue after a beer, here’s my response: Are you kidding me?
We citizens of North Carolina lost our innocence in such matters many years ago. Via our state government, we are the exclusive supplier of hard liquor to people with drinking problems, through stores overseen by the N.C. Alcohol Beverage Control Commission. For those with a weakness for gambling, we operate a numbers racket (called the N.C. Education Lottery). And let us not forget the millions of dollars in tax revenue we happily rake in from smokers.
In light of that, being squeamish about having Bud Light affix its name above the amphitheater entrance is a sort of like preaching marital fidelity at the conclusion of a swinger party. It’s a little too late to reclaim virtue at that point.