Having thoroughly fleeced the peasants in the cheap seats, Veterans Stadium now turns its attention to the aristocrats in the luxury boxes.
An unwritten BYO rule that has saved these beer-drinking blue bloods millions of dollars at taxpayer expense will be abolished starting on Opening Day this spring.
City Hall officials say that, under a new food and beverage contract that is still unsigned, the stadium will prohibit deluxe box ticket-holders from carrying in their own discount booze.
The prohibition ends 15 years of alcoholic elitism that allowed wealthy fans to avoid the high beer prices that the stadium charges its other, decidedly less influential fans.
Now, instead of spending less than a sawbuck for a case of Bud, corporate honchos can expect to pay $60 or more.
“Other fans aren’t allowed to bring in alcoholic beverages, so why should people operating the penthouses be allowed to violate the same law?” said city procurement commissioner Louis Applebaum.
The stadium is one of the few in the nation without a BYO prohibition.
The Daily News exposed the BYO scam in August 1998, outlining the disparity in stadium beer policies.
Common fans in outdoor seats are routinely searched at the turnstile for a smuggled can of brew. Inside, we pay $5 and more for a single cup of beer.
Meanwhile, affluent fans were welcomed by stadium employees at a discreet gate, where stadium employees helped them haul in cases of discount domestic and imported beer purchased at wholesale distributors.
For these select few, a ballpark brew cost as little as 50 cents a bottle.
At the time, officials at the vermin-infested public facility defended the policy, reasoning that wealthy fans shouldn’t be subjected to the stadium’s notoriously steep liquor prices because they are “preferred customers. ”
“That’s going to stop,” Applebaum told me last week.
The end to the BYO policy grew out of ongoing negotiations for a new ballpark concession contract between the city and Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp. Sources told the Daily News that Aramark had griped that the policy was costing it hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost beer revenue.
Spokesmen for Aramark did not comment.
Asked how they expected their pampered deluxe box ticket holders to react, representatives for the Phillies and the Eagles said they would not comment until the new concession contract is signed. The deal is expected to be completed this month.
Undoubtedly, the end of the BYO policy will burn the upper-crust fans.
On almost every game day, private citizens rolled up to the stadium entrance beneath Gate E to unload untold cases of booze. The BYO deal was completely unchecked and unaudited.
The city is supposed to collect a 20 percent cut from food and beverage catering in the boxes, plus 7 percent in alcohol sales taxes.
“I won’t guess the numbers,” Applebaum said. “I do know there’s a significant amount of revenue the city does not get because of this loophole. ”
A Daily News analysis of stadium concession revenues, however, showed the city was losing about $200,000 a year in fees and taxes.
Over 15 years, then, city taxpayers spent $3 million to subsidize the drinking habits of a handful of wealthy fans.
The city’s losses were compounded because much of the alcohol was purchased in New Jersey, where liquor is generally cheaper.
“I’ve been told the box owners had liquor chauffeurs picking up cases out of state,” Applebaum said.
Asked why it took so long for the city to end the BYO policy, Applebaum said, “People weren’t focusing on it. ”
“I won’t comment on why we’re doing it now,” he continued. “But when you’re doing something wrong, the goal is to correct it and make it right. During conversations over the contract, we made the decision that we were going to correct it.”