In 2005, bartender Andy Heidel posted a sign outside the Patio Lounge in the family-friendly neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn pleading with parents to stop bringing their babies into bars. Known as the Stroller Manifesto (sample text: “You made the decision to have a child and now, like a responsible adult and parent, you have to change your lifestyle”), the sign received a lot of attention and did not work at all. Park Slope parents, attempting to prove they can still hang, wear Babybjörns to keep their IPA hand free. But that’s only the half of it. The parents that do leave their kids at home are turning it up to 100, creating issues Heidel couldn’t have foreseen. Instead of tots, they’re bringing cocaine into dad-heavy dive bars.
Tara (not her real name), a bartender at what might be described as a defiantly casual hangout says that coked up parents are now just part of the scene. Laughing, she says that they’re not actually very good at doing drugs. But this isn’t holding them back.
“The parents doing cocaine in Park Slope don’t give a shit,” she says. “They’re passing vials and going to the bathroom together and doing obvious things that most people doing cocaine in bars know not to do.”
Tara is not judgmental. She doesn’t see the fast-talking regulars as bad parents. To the contrary, she says they tend to go on and on about their children and their partners while high, which is sweet in a way. While she can’t say if they’re more or less attentive parents than the moms and dads who drag their toddlers to beer gardens, she does say she’d rather serve the druggies. Fatherly spoke to her about that experience.
So why do you think Brooklyn parents are out there doing cocaine in bars and not caring whether anyone knows it? Feels like that’s sort of antithetical to the whole family-friendly vibe of Park Slope as a neighborhood. These are, like, PTA people, right?
I think it has to do with how much money they have. The fact that these parents are doing cocaine maybe once a week means they probably have a certain amount of money that allows them to not have much shame about their drug use. They’re just like, ‘Everything is fine, I have a nanny. I’m just going to pay the bartender to not judge me.’ And, honestly, I will take that money.
Is it mostly moms or dads? Who is out there getting the craziest?
It’s both, but the moms I notice it more with. They’re usually doing it together as more of a girls night thing. The dads are usually flying solo. I know because they offer it to me. I won’t partake, but I won’t judge them for asking. They think if the bartender takes a bump it’s more social and fun.
I know that sounds like a sad dad thing, but it’s not always. There’s this one dad, he has some kind of high-powered job in finance. He’ll come in every Tuesday night and stay until 1:00 a.m by himself and offer me drugs. He likes to meet people and chat with them. It’s almost like he needs the social release and the drugs are helping him with it.
Does he talk about his kids and family when he’s on cocaine?
Oh yeah. He has three kids. They’re a little older, like in the 7, 10, and 12. He speaks very fondly of his family and his domestic life seems awesome. He’ll be coked up and talking all about his son’s game, or just beaming over his kids’ accomplishments and talking about vacations they’ve been on. He never comes in on the weekends and I think that’s because he’s spending time with his kids. So, once a week, he comes to the bar, does cocaine, and talks to strangers. He talks to mostly other men and is not trying to sleep with anyone. He’s a proud dad with a good home life.
Why do you think he does cocaine once a week?
I’ve noticed that with dads specifically, they feel like they need to have this dual life where they can still be an individual. I wonder how much substances like cocaine and alcohol play into that. Maybe it’s part of clinging to his youth or individuality from being a family guy. Maybe the drug isn’t about the high, it’s more of a symbol of how fun their life was. They’re grasping onto something from their lives from before they had kids.
Maybe that’s what helps keep their drug use seemingly under control? Because it’s not so much about the high as it is about the symbol?
Well, there have been problematic users, but they ended up getting sober. There was an old regular from years ago, who was a fun, young mom. Then I didn’t see her for a long time and I heard her husband gave her an ultimatum. She had a rough road to sobriety but is doing well now.
So what’s the difference between her and this other dad?
It really comes down to the time they went home. That was the obvious thing. You have to go to bed, or be with your kids, or let your babysitter go home, or whatever it is, but she would stay until close every time she came out. She couldn’t stop. This other dude is tearing it up to an extent, but he comes in at nine and leaves at midnight or one at the latest. He seems functional and isn’t doing that every night of the week. He probably doesn’t feel great after he does it, but there’s something about it that brings him back to it. There’s some escapism involved.
That makes sense. A lot of parents smoke weed because that’s what they did before they had kids. A lot of people probably did coke before kids and prefer that to weed. But parents smoking weed feels normal. Cocaine doesn’t. I wonder why that is.
I think that’s because there’s such a stigma on heavy drugs like coke, but I think somewhere like New York it’s more normalized to do cocaine recreationally than it would be elsewhere. I’m not exactly sure what makes it more problematic in other places — maybe it’s just harder to get. And of course, there are plenty of people who use cocaine and it’s not social. But these are social users. They’re bringing into a bar to be more social because that’s what they’re lacking in their lives: socialization with other adults.
In your personal opinion, do you think there’s anything wrong with that?
This one dad we’re talking about seems to have it under control, but I don’t see what his kids deal with. I’m only getting his perspective, so who knows. But he seems like a good guy, not a creep.
Part of me doesn’t even think it’s that big of a deal that he comes in once a week, does cocaine, and talks to strangers. It’s almost like “self-care.” It’s not the best, but it counts. And in a neighborhood like Park Slope that’s so parent heavy, but a cool area where people are out having fun and there’s access to drugs, it would make sense that there’s a little dalliance there when it comes to unwinding after being a good dad and breadwinner. They really just want to be people who exist outside of their families.
If there are two types of Park Slope bar parents, those who bring their babies and those who bring cocaine, who would you rather serve?
Is this a trick question? Obviously, there are parents who come in with their kids who are not terrible and there are parents who come in with cocaine that are terrible, but the answer is cocaine. I feel more comfortable with that in a nightlife atmosphere.