Center City Sips 2018: CCD Announces Higher Prices, Heavier Security

Amid a host of changes following a troubled 2017 season, will the 15th year of the beloved downtown happy hour be its last?

Photo courtesy of Center City District.

Center City Sips — at least what Sips has become — has to end.

You’ve heard me say that before. So has Center City District, the organizers of what was once a beloved summer event for young professionals looking to break up the monotony of the work week with half-price drinks. Those were the days, weren’t they — before the college crazies started showing up and ballsy high schoolers fresh off of raiding their parents’ liquor cabinets.

Other than myself and I’m sure many of you readers out there, do you know who else pines for the days when Sips was a more civilized affair? The folks at CCD. Sips is their baby, and officials within the community organization want to see it restored to its former glory.

“Sips is not a college party,” Michelle Shannon, CCD’s VP of marketing and communication, tells Philly Mag. “It is meant to be for young professionals after work. We’re pretty clear that we don’t want underage drinking.”

Shannon helped create Sips back in 2003, and she along with the rest of the CCD crew would like the event’s 15th season to be a little closer to its first. So they’ve listened to feedback from both patrons and business owners and devised a comprehensive plan to keep out the riffraff (and the rugrats).

“As always, Sips is designed to encourage Philadelphia’s young professionals to unwind after work in Center City restaurants and bars during what can otherwise be a slow time for business,” Shannon says. “While the overwhelming majority of Sips patrons are well-behaved and observe all ordinances and regulations, we will be taking additional steps to ensure that Sips is safe, well-managed and successful for everyone involved.”

Those changes include additional police bike patrols, heightened security at larger outdoor venues like the Comcast Center and Pagano’s, and a partnership with transportation authorities focused on cracking down on young troublemakers commuting into town. One tweak many of you won’t like: Drink prices are going up a buck for the first time ever. Beers will now run you $4, wine $5, and mixed drinks $6 — a necessary evil to help drive away college kids on a budget.

Still bothered by the crowds? You’re encouraged to check out any of the other participating establishments that don’t have the same sort of vibe as the larger meeting grounds — 90 bars and restaurants have signed up to host Sips events this year.

“If you were to spend an evening at Sips on the east side of town, it’s a very, very different experience from the large outdoor venues,” says Shannon. “People love to be outside in the summer, and we have some great spots that can accommodate large numbers outdoors, but we really want to shine a light on the other 90 places that offer a different experience, too.”

It remains to be seen whether Sips can pull it all together and get back to its more refined roots. As to whether the event is on its last legs, Shannon says that notion is premature at this point.

“We have our plan and we fully intend to have a successful Sips season,” she says.