It is no secret there is a culture war going on in New Orleans. Every week comes word of a new bar or music club being targeted for closure because of noise that no one seemed to mind much a few years ago. Noise ordinances are being plotted. Archaic overlay rules are being enforced. Our precious go cups are in danger of banishment and in a short time our open containers may be snapped shut. Secondline organizers are being denied permits. Street vendors are being ticketed for not having the proper permits along the routes. It’s no wonder that New Orleanians are crying out, “Where will the madness end?”
In the latest chapter in the ongoing battle against New Orleans culture, Chad Arnold, a recent New Orleans transplant by way of New York, hired New Orleans attorney John Smits to represent him in a class action lawsuit against several local bars and restaurants in the Marigny. The bars’ offense? They dared serve him crawfish that he deemed “too spicy”. “Some of these places use too much spice in their boils,” said Arnold. “Not everyone wants it that hot and we feel it’s discriminatory toward people who have a softer palette.”
Arnold says his decision to file the suit was sealed when his girlfriend, who moved here recently from Michigan, almost choked on a turkey neck Arnold says was left in the boil longer than it needed to be, soaking up excessive amounts of the crab boil used to spice up the pot. The lawsuit filed this week ignited a firestorm of backlash around the city and inspired Mid-City resident Glenn Broussard to create a line of t-shirts emblazoned with the moniker “Defend Crawfish”.
“We have been eating our crawfish spicy for as long as we can remember,” said Broussard. “Now a bunch of people move here from out of town and want us to take it down a notch? I think that is just an affront to everything we stand for as a culture.” While the lawsuit plays out in court, the city has filed an injunction on the businesses named in the suit that prohibits adding Zatarains crab boil to any crawfish boils taking place on the premises.
The businesses declined to comment for this article, as their lawyers had suggested. Arnold says that the law is on his side. ”Just look at the McDonald’s case where the woman was burned because the coffee was served too hot,” he says, pointing to a 1994 case against the fast food chain. “After that case, coffee temperature began to be regulated in order to be safe for all consumers. Louisiana should be held just as responsible for their heavy-handed spicing.” Enjoy your crawfish while you still can.