Anthony Williams, Kenyatta Johnson Defend Pop-Up Beer Gardens

Say quashing them would lose tax dollars, tourism.


State Sen. Anthony Williams — a likely candidate for mayor — has jumped into the fray over pop-up beer gardens, telling the state Liquor Control Board the phenomenon has benefited Philadelphia.

“Placing unnecessary or burdensome restrictions on these venues would result in the loss of critical tax dollars, decreased tourism and significan trestrictions on the works of charitable organizations like the Philadelphia Horticultural Society,” Williams wrote. (See letter below.)

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson also joined in with a letter of his own:

“Pop-up gardens bring life to blighted and underused lots and improve quality of life for area residents by providing venues for outdoor entertainment and socializing,” Johnson wrote, adding that he “fully supports” the gardens.

How’d we get here? Well, it started when everybody noticedthat this was becoming the Summer of Beer Gardens in Philly.

• On July 17, the Daily News explained how that was possible. Foobooz summarized “Turns out the answer is in an LCB loophole created in a 2012 law change that was meant to make it easier for caterers to operate off-site. What has happened is establishments with liquor licenses have been able to set up beer gardens that operate as catering operations and in some cases, piggybacking permits from multiple establishments to create a full-time beer garden at a fraction of the cost of a full liquor license.”

Almost immediately, four state lawmakers asked the Liquor Control Board, asking for a stronger interpretation of the law that would put the pop-up beer gardens out of business. “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.”

• That made the Foobooz guys mad.

• And everybody else, too. PlanPhilly on Monday ran a piece showing the pop-up gardens are beloved by neighbors for bringing excitement and business to their neighbohoods without bringing much in the way of negatives, like crime.

How this all plays out is still anybody’s guess, but it’s clear that pop-up beer gardens have considerable support in the community at this point. [Plan Philly]