The Philadelphia Zoo Is Opening a Beer Garden

The zoo plans to open its beer garden by early July at the latest. It began selling beer and wine at two other venues over Memorial Day weekend.

Philadelphia Zoo beer garden - The Watering Hole

A plan for the Philadelphia Zoo’s new beer garden, The Watering Hole, which will open in late June or early July. (Courtesy Philadelphia Zoo)

You can now drink at the zoo.

The Philadelphia Zoo began selling alcohol at two stands, Tiger Terrace and Eagle’s Roost, on Memorial Day weekend. But that’s not all: The zoo is planning a late-June or early-July launch for a beer garden, The Watering Hole, which will be adjacent to Eagle’s Roost.

Amy Shearer, the zoo’s Chief Marketing Officer, says the reversal of a longstanding policy came after talking with visitors and Philadelphia Zoo members over the past year. “We talked to our guests and members all throughout the year in many platforms,” she tells Philadelphia magazine. “Through all of these conversations, one thing that our guests had been largely vocal about is that, ‘Hey, the zoo is so great for all ages and families as well but there’s some things that we adults want, too.’”

Outside alcohol remains banned at the park, but beer and wine will not be confined to the sections where they are sold. Guests will be free to roam the park drinking the glass of beer or wine they’ve purchased from one of the zoo’s stands. Alcohol sales are being handled by its food vendor, Aramark, which has a liquor license for the zoo property.

Drink Philly recently reported the three beers being sold are Bud Light, Stella Artois and Goose Island 312. Two wines, both from Robert Mondavi, are also for sale. Beer is $6 and wine is $8.

The first weekend of alcohol sales at the zoo did not see any problems, Shearer said, and said she didn’t expect any in the future. She says the zoo has made its safety team aware beer and wine are now being sold at the zoo.

“The safety of our guests and our staff and our animals are always paramount to everything we do,” Shearer says. “There’s no question about that. That’s something we think about and talk about every day… we have a robust safety team and security force. It’s always all throughout the zoo every day. Obviously, they’re aware that we are selling alcohol. Early signs show that this isn’t something to be overly concerned about. We’re always thinking about safety of everyone at all times.… we really just think that this is going to be a nice additive to a great day.”

The Watering Hole beer garden is inside the zoo, so one must purchase admission in order to be admitted into it. Dana Lombardo, the Zoo’s director of communication, says the space is “in the middle of this oasis of trees” and expects visitors to be wowed by its design. It was done by Groundswell Design Group, which has worked on many beer gardens in the city.

Shearer is excited for the public to get to see it. “I think we have a really unique venue,” she says. “And it’s a great opportunity to share what we’re all about, and if we can appeal to our audience and our guests — all of them — that’s great. We always strive to have an excellent experience for everybody.”

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