Wine and beer will be on the menu this November when Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., opens its newest dining venue, the French-themed Be Our Guest restaurant. The restaurant, shown here in an artist's rendering, is based on Disney's
Be our guest, be our guest, put our sommelier to the test?
Starting this November, visitors to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando may be tempted to rework the popular song from "Beauty and the Beast" when the park opens its newest dining venue, the French-themed Be Our Guest restaurant. For the first time in the park’s 41-year history, daily visitors will be able to order a glass or bottle of wine (or beer) with their dinner.
“You cannot walk into a French restaurant and not get a glass of wine or beer," Maribeth Bisienere, vice president of food and beverage for Walt Disney Parks, told the Orlando Sentinel. "It made more sense to do it than not to do it."
The decision represents a significant shift for Disney, although the company has long offered alcohol at other parks, including Animal Kingdom, Epcot and at the private Club 33 at Disneyland in Anaheim.
“The Magic Kingdom has always been considered more of a family-oriented park,” said John Gerner, managing director at Leisure Business Advisors LLC. “It’s the park that’s always tried to follow Walt’s wishes the most closely.”
Which, perhaps, explains the reaction among the park’s most ardent fans. “Our fans are split about 50-50,” said Disney expert Deb Wills of AllEars.net. “There are some people who are purists who want to keep the park alcohol-free. The rest are excited about it.”
Wills counts herself among the latter, citing the fact that alcohol will only be served at one venue and only at dinner. She also suggests that the park’s food-service reputation could use a boost.
“The Magic Kingdom has always been one of the worst parks to have dinner in unless you want characters or all-you-can-eat food,” she told TODAY.com. “A lot of people tend to leave the park, go to one of the [adjacent] resorts for dinner and then come back.”
As part of the park’s Fantasyland expansion, the new restaurant could change that, although it also raises the specter of sauvignon-soused diners staggering away from the table back into more public areas.
“Whenever you allow alcohol sales, there’s the potential that a visitor will get loud or rude or stumble into an unsafe situation,” said Gerner, who once worked as an operations supervisor at Busch Gardens Williamsburg when the park was owned by the well-known beer company. “We had issues from time to time but they were much rarer than you might think.”
Given Disney’s selective approach to alcohol sales, such problems are even less likely — as long as the popping of wine corks and cracking open of beer bottles remains limited to the castle-like environs of Be Our Guest.
“There’s a lot of concern from Disney fans that this is just the first step toward serving alcohol throughout the Magic Kingdom,” said Wills. “I hope that’s not the case.”
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.
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