Much ado over brew: Council probe of Vet food, beer sought

Faced with reports of moldy hot dogs and short cups of beer, City Council may weigh in on the civic embarrassment known as Veterans Stadium food.

Councilman Jim Kenney will introduce a resolution on Thursday that calls for hearings into the city food concession contract with Ogden Entertainment.

Kenney told Joe Sixpack that he’s had enough of the Rendell administration’s cavalier attitude toward the lousy ballpark grub.

“What we put forth down there at the concessions” just doesn’t measure up, Kenney said.

His action was prompted by Daily News reports of the Vet’s half-million-dollar suds-skimming scam. Joe Sixpack discovered last week that purported 18- and 12-ounce cups of beer were missing two ounces of brew.

A Rendell administration official laughed off the short-cupping, saying, “It’s only beer. ”

That would seem an incongruous response from an administration that has banked our economic future on luring visitors to city attractions. If anything can leave a sour taste in tourists’ mouths, it’s ballpark food.

“It’s `just beer’ if you don’t have to work for a living,” said Kenney, who once sweated as a busboy at the ballpark’s Stadium Club. “The `Joe Sixpacks’ I grew up with have got to save to go down to the ballgame.”

“This is not a minor issue,” Kenney growled. “It’s not just a pocketbook issue, but it’s an issue that affects the psyche of the community. ”

Indeed, we are a city with a rich tradition of world-class cuisine that ranges from the Italian restaurants of South Philly to the white tablecloths of Walnut Street. Yet at Veterans Stadium, baseball fans are assaulted by overpriced junk food.

“Can you imagine that, in the birthplace of the soft pretzel, all you can get at the stadium is a radiated, mutant-ninja pretzel? ” Kenney said. “I can’t tell you how many times you go down there and get a pretzel that’s still frozen. It’s really frustrating not to have a choice. ”

Kenney called on the city Licenses and Inspections Department to get to the bottom of the suds-skimming scandal.

On Friday, L&I agents briefly nosed around the stadium, but issued no violations because Ogden had already removed advertising signs that had stated how much beer is in a cup (see photo above, taken before the signs were removed). Without the signs, L&I was unable to charge Ogden with false advertising.

Kenney wants L&I to investigate all the issues raised by the Daily News, including reports of green, foul-tasting hot dogs and tasteless pretzels. And, he added, “There’s no reason in the world not to look into the overall nature of the concession operation. ”

When Ogden’s 15-year contract ends in 2000, Kenney said, the city should be prepared to sign up a vendor who can guarantee ballpark food that matches Philadelphia’s reputation for first-class eats. He envisions concession stands operated by some of the city’s best-known eateries.

“The cheesesteaks are terrible down there – we should have Jim’s Steaks or Tony Luke’s,” he said.

“You could have Termini pastries or Rita’s water ice.

“We invented the hoagie, didn’t we? Ever have a hoagie at the Vet? Yecch . . .

“You could throw a baseball from Veterans Stadium and hit the building where they make Federal pretzels, and we’re selling this poor excuse for a pretzel? ”

Ogden has been reluctant to talk about the food it serves at Phillies games. Yesterday, company officials did not return calls seeking comment on the proposed City Council hearings.

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