That little legal loophole that’s letting beer gardens proliferate around Philadelphia this summer? Well, some state legislators want to close it, soon — meaning Philly’s summer of beer might be truncated in the not-too-distant future. Philadelphia Business Journal points to a weekend story noting that four legislators (including Philadelphia Republican John Taylor) have signed a letter to the Liquor Control Board asking that the board enforce alcohol laws differently. The law that allows summer-long pop-up beer gardens, they say, was intended only to allow temporary one-time events, like weddings, to feature alcohol in otherwise off-limits settings. The Daily News reports:
In the two-page letter dated Thursday and signed by state Reps. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia; Paul Costa, D-Allegheny; and state Sens. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, and Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, the legislators said the board is ignoring provisions of the law by creating public events that can go on for an “endless number of days.”
They contend the practice is an “attempt to permanently establish a retail liquor establishment at an unlicensed location.”
“Off-premise catering permits are a useful tool offered to our licensees in order to provide a service to the public,” they wrote. “However, the application of the law by your agency allows for the purposeful misuse of the permits.”
A good question to ask right this moment is … “why?”
Sure, the permits aren’t being used how they were intended. Fine. But are the beer gardens harming anybody? Driving down nearby property values? Creating an unspeakable wave of DUI deaths? It’s possible, I guess, but those factors haven’t been reported publicly.
What has been reported — and is notable to anybody who bothers to look — is that the beer gardens have become vibrant public spaces where, in some cases, there wasn’t previously much vibrancy.
That’s a good thing So why mess with it? Because it wasn’t fully intended? Because some legislator is mad that fun was being held without permission? Ugh. This state’s complicated, sorry relationship with alcohol and the people who sell it never ceases to be confusing and frustrating.
UPDATE: Philly activist Conrad Benner is promoting a Change.org petition to preserve the pop-up beer gardens. As of 2:52 p.m. Monday, the document had 412 signatures.
UPDATE 2: The Foobooz guys are steamed.