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Free Shots, Cheap Drinks, and Debauchery: Inside the World of Organized Pub Crawls

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It all started at the Local Craft Food & Drink in Coral Gables. Throngs of people wearing Mardi Gras masquerade masks descended upon the bar to get their drink on this past Saturday. Fritz & Franz followed, then John Martin's, and at that point, well, things get a little hazy.

Organized boozing sounds like an oxymoron, but Miami-based company Last Call Pub Crawls proves otherwise. You might be thinking, "Why do I need a company to organize my drinking? I get drunk just fine on my own!" And, in a way, you're right. That's pretty much what we were thinking, too, as we drove up Le Jeune Road.

But we learned that for some Miami locals, pub crawling is a way of life. (Names have been withheld to protect the intoxicated.)

A pub crawl is more than an organized drinking tour. We spoke to several crawlers, both virgins and old pros -- wait, sorry, those were the hookers. (Look, we said we were a little drunk.) Besides the streetwalkers, we also spoke to both newbie and experienced pub crawlers, and much like going to confession on Sunday, everyone has a different reason for attending a pub crawl.

The Way it Works
Crawls are held in a neighborhood that contains several bars within walking distance of each other, for example Coral Gables or South Beach. Four to five bar stops are scheduled, for about an hour each. For $19.99 presale or $25 at the door, you get to drink at happy hour prices, usually 2-for-1 or half off drinks, and a free shot at each bar. As the hour comes to an end, the guides rally the crowd to move on to the next bar. Last Call organizes a crawl in some area of Miami almost every weekend.

Who Crawls?
This is what we found most fascinating. We were expecting a bunch of dim-witted, Jersey Shore-esque frat boy types, but there was actually a good mix of people. Yes, there were a few Snookies, and plenty of "wooting" involved -- in fact, at Fritz & Franz, there was an even an attempt to get "the wave" going. But there were also some professionals and some hipsters among the 130 or so people that attended. Surprisingly, most of the crowd was female. Not surprisingly, most of the people appeared to be between the ages of 25 and 35.

You read that right -- 130 people attended the Coral Gables crawl, qualifying "pub crawlers" as a bona fide Miami subculture. And the city of Miami itself appeared to have created this niche. Most of the people we encountered were, like us, new to the crawl, and their most common answer we heard for why people joined the crawl was, "to meet new people." In a city like Miami, where people tend to ignore strangers unless they're exchanging insurance information after a fender bender, it's understandable to want to be in an environment where people are actually encouraged to talk to those around them.

The regulars, meanwhile, told us that they attend about twice a month and, while meeting new people is a nice bonus, the drink specials are what keep them coming back. Once again, in a city like Miami where a $100 bar tab is de rigueur, wanting half off the price of your weekend libations is also understandable.

The Scene
As we said earlier, we heard plenty of woohoos and I'm so drunk right nows. But the vibe changes at each bar and as the night goes on. Much like a regular Saturday night, the later it gets, the more drunk you and your friends get. Towards the end, women stood on tables, possible threesomes were in the works, couples (uh, we assume they were couples) got very involved in PDA, and people passed out on sofas.

The Conclusion
Want to meet new people, get drunk relatively cheaply, and give your brain the weekend off?We really do use our brains enough during the week, don't we? Joining a pub crawl is not a bad idea. At the very least, we'd say it's worth experiencing at least once. Just be prepared for the inevitable hangover the next morning.

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