Guard Our Beer Gardens!

In Philadelphia, pop-up beer gardens appear like oases amidst the urban heat. However some legislators are demanding the closure of the loophole in the liquor code that makes them possible. Will Philadelphians be forced back indoors to enjoy their summer shandies and IPAs?


The PHS (Pennsylvania Horticultural Society) pop-up garden and the Eakins Oval beer garden are two of these temporary outdoor bars. On a given day you’ll find them dotted with hammocks, furniture cleverly crafted from repurposed objects, and full of people.


It’s not just the hammocks that draw the crowds; the pop-ups are also places where Philadelphians can legally purchase and drink alcohol in an outdoor space.


This is possible via creative interpretation of the stringent Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s (PLCB) liquor code, the recent publicizing of which is causing some to wonder if these watering hole oases will soon be merely a mirage.


On July 17th, four state legislators wrote to the PLCB demanding the closure of the loophole that allows pop-up beer gardens.


Proponents of closing the loophole argue that liquor licenses cost businesses upwards of $85,000, substantial amounts of red tape and a headache. Meanwhile, the loophole allows applicants to receive liquor licenses for temporary beer gardens for $500 and through a one-page application.


Undoubtedly, the discrepancy is unfair, but so are many facets of Pennsylvania’s puritanical liquor code.


Ideally, instead of repealing the amendment to the code that facilitates the loophole, the pop-up beer garden debate would lead to an examination and overhaul of the code itself. Philly’s pop-up beer gardens are a wonderful example of the benefits that a fresh perspective on state liquor laws can bring.


The PHS Pop-Up Beer Garden at 15th & South Streets

Beer gardens activate underutilized spaces in Philadelphia, of which we have many. In the case of the PHS Pop-Up Garden, the venue is an otherwise vacant lot.


When happy hour hordes and cocktail connoisseurs flock to beer gardens instead of disappearing into bars, they are contributing to the public life and vibrancy of the city.


Notably, nearby eateries and bars alike report spikes in sales and beer garden operators report that neither neighboring bars nor residents have complained.


Sounds like a win-win that we’d hate to lose.

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