Sixteen years ago I was living in Southern California and found a restaurant that sold plates of crawfish with a link of sausage and a potato. It was somewhere in the $30 range, if memory serves, and though I would occasionally cave and pay the exorbitant amount, I would always brag to the waiter, “Back home I’d have free crawfish three or four nights per week.”

Now the Mobile County Health Department is cracking down on bars that boil, and it seems our “free” crawfish season has come to an abrupt halt. “The MCHD is absolutely operating within its bounds and enforcing existing rules, not making new ones, but why now?” says The Merry Widow’s Roy Clark, whose Sunday boil is one of downtown’s favorites. “There must be a compromise. More than anything, I’m saddened that one of the most unique and anticipated traditions of Gulf Coast culture — people of all walks coming together at a watering hole around a boiling pot, being a community — might be purged from our lives because of arbitrary restrictions.”

The Garage is another favorite boil I’ve visited as far back as I can remember, often as a patron but sometimes as a musician. Stoney Boatman wonders, “I don’t understand why the blind eye started to see now.” That is the mystery that has many of us perplexed.

It’s not like these things are speakeasy events. They are promoted all over social media and in the pages of this column as well as other publications. But right now the Health Department is saying you need a licensed commercial kitchen to cook mudbugs. Think of the ridiculousness of that. They aren’t selling crawfish. And who cooks them in a kitchen anyway?

The question I have is whether or not fundraising events are getting the same treatment. Because I am pretty certain Crawfish for a Cause, St. Mary’s Crawfish and Bluegrass Extravaganza, and Crawfish in the Courtyard are larger-scale events doing pretty much the same thing as our bars. I doubt those guys are cooking in a kitchen. The same goes for chili cook-offs, gumbo cook-offs and the Downtown Cajun Cook-Off. These are events where amateur and professional chefs are cooking outdoors on sidewalks as hundreds upon hundreds of people walk by drinking beer.

“The free crawfish boil is a unique cultural phenomenon, and it gives our city something to brag about, and is a fun event to bring out-of-towners to,” explains Frankie Little, well known in our restaurant scene for his many hats. “To my knowledge no one has ever been harmed by it, so why should it be stopped? I hope that through the help of our mayor, the Downtown Alliance, City Council members and the Health Department a reasonable solution can be made.”

Lickin Good Donuts coming to Midtown Dauphin Street
This is one donut chain that is enjoying a meteoric rise. Lickin Good Donuts began in Robertsdale, but is killing it all over Mobile and Baldwin counties. The latest news is a new location is coming to Dauphin Street near Interstate 65 in the same shopping center as Greer’s. Are their donuts any good? Oh yes, but wait until you try the kolaches! Opening in June, I can’t wait for my diet to be over.