Last week, the Daily News reported on a quirk in the PA liquor code which allows vendors who own liquor licenses to use inexpensive $500 off-premise catering permits to serve alcohol at the temporary pop-up beer gardens that have been springing up this summer in Philadelphia.
The success of these outdoor beer gardens is spooking some other drinking establishments, prompting a few legislators to write to the PA Liquor Control Board urging them to reinterpret the law before the beer garden scourge spreads to other PA cities. The letter, signed by Republicans Chuck McIlhinney and John Taylor, as well as Democrats Jim Ferlo and Paul Costa, cites the issue as a matter of “grave concern.”
Now, although the beer gardens take advantage of this loophole, they have done nothing but good for the city of Philadelphia. Repurposing abandoned lots, generating new tax revenue, and providing beautiful outdoor venues for Philadelphians to enjoy summer nights in the city doesn’t sound like much of a “grave concern” to me. If the pop-up gardens were forced to pay the exorbitant fees for a regular liquor license, they would surely be priced right out of existence, turning the vacant lots right back into..well, vacant lots.
These kinds of economic development projects which engage the community are exactly the type of ventures Philly-area lawmakers should be striving to promote. But these four lawmakers apparently think bar owners’ special interests outweigh the interests of most residents.
If you want to keep the pop-up beer gardens going, our friends at the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus put together a petition, calling on legislators to support them. If the gardens do lose their liquor licenses over something ridiculous like this, I’m sure voters will remember the actions taken by these four lawmakers come election time.