The Water Taxi: Where Every Voyage Is a Virgin

This Sunday, the King County (née Elliott Bay) Water Taxi will mark its inaugural voyage of 2009 by offering passengers free rides and refreshments. Conspicuously absent from the refreshment table will be a staple -- perhaps the staple -- of the seafaring lifestyle: alcohol.

What's an Argosy cruise without booze? A subcontracted Argosy cruise that's governed by the laws of public transit, that's what. While scofflaws abound, hooch isn't permitted on Metro buses, so for the county to make an exception for its Ferry District vessels would represent something of a double standard.

But that's not the most compelling reason why the Water Taxi, which shuttles passengers to and from Alki Beach and the downtown waterfront, remains as dry as a Mormon wedding.

"The biggest problem is the water taxi crossing is so short -- 12 minutes -- that there's a very limited window in which they could serve something," notes Chris Arkills, chief of staff for King County Councilmember Dow Constantine, a West Seattleite who's running to replace Ron Sims as county exec. "We had several conversations with Argosy about doing this last year. The most logical choice would be to serve mini-beers, those seven-ouncers."

Arkills says that the Ferry District, which Constantine chairs, will revisit whether to serve mini-beers during a trial period "after the summer peak season," conceding that such a belated softening "doesn't help people who want booze on the boat right now."

While Washington State Ferry riders have long been able to slake their thirst with cold microbrews, the closest Water Taxi passengers have gotten to cocktail culture is a virgin concoction called the "Constantini", so named for the aforementioned councilman, who was instrumental in King County's seizure of the 12-minute run. (The Constantini consists of 7-Up, huckleberry syrup, cranberry juice, and lime.) Once the county begins leasing its own boats in 2010, when the Water Taxi switches to year-round service, Arkills says boozin' and cruisin' may become "more feasible...Dow, for one, is very open to having any revenue sources, whether it's food or beer, on the boat."

Our solution: county-issued beer bongs, built for speed, just like the Water Taxi.

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