A pair of beer-drinking Phillies fans have tapped into the foaming furor over those paper cups of flat, overpriced Veterans Stadium brew.
Inspired by Daily News reports that exposed what appears to be a half-million-dollar stadium suds shortfall, the two engine mechanics have filed a class-action lawsuit that charges the stadium concessionaire with negligence and fraud.
“It’s unjust, It’s not fair,” said Eric Jacoby, 44, of Langhorne. “I hate to say it, but I want to get them. They gouge you and make you feel like a criminal, so if we can get them on fraud, they should pay for it. ”
Though Jacoby and his cousin, Paul Pollock, 36, are the only named plaintiffs, the lawsuit’s class includes all those who have purchased beer at the Vet during Phillies and Eagles games during the last four years.
That means if you plunked down cash for a purported 18- or 12-ounce cup of stadium beer, you could share in any legal victory that Jacoby and Pollock might win. The two fans are seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages, but their attorney suggested a court may order an even tastier settlement.
“Maybe a free beer,” said Center City lawyer Neil Jokelson, one of Philadelphia’s best and most respected attorneys. “Or maybe they would have to lower prices for a period of time. ”
Ogden Entertainment Services, the stadium concessionaire, had little comment about the lawsuit.
“It’s just totally absurd,” said Hugh Braithwaite, an Ogden spokesman.
A spokesman for the city, which has earned millions from its 58.2 percent cut of stadium beer revenues, also had little to say.
“It doesn’t surprise me, given the publicity,” said Mayor Rendell’s spokesman, Kevin Feeley. “We have a contract with Ogden, so we will continue to investigate to make sure they are living up to the terms of contract. ”
Ogden has been on the hot seat since the Phillies’ home opener last month. Daily News stories have harshly criticized the Vet’s bad hot dogs and out-of-control prices, and many fans have joined the dogfight.
A Joe Sixpack investigation two weeks ago brought the campaign to a head. The probe revealed that stadium beer cups contained about 2 ounces less beer than advertised. The short-cupping cost beer-drinking baseball fans an estimated $495,000 in the past year.
Even without the skimming, Phillies draft beer – mainly Budweiser and Miller Lite – is the most expensive brew in the National League and the second-most expensive in major league baseball.
The day after the scandal broke, a team of investigators from the city Department of Licenses and Inspections snooped around, but they were too late. Ogden had already removed all the signs advertising beer quantities.
So, without tapping a single beer, L&I declined to cite Ogden for false advertising.
Last week, City Councilman Jim Kenney, citing allegations of fraud, called for hearings into the Vet’s food-and-beverage concession. The hearings, before the Council L&I committee, could be held early next month.
The class-action lawsuit was filed Friday by Jokelson.
It alleges that either:
Ogden knew it was selling less beer than advertised and it concealed the shortage to defraud its customers.
The company was negligent for failing to use large enough cups to accommodate its advertised quantities of beer.
Either way, the lawsuit says, Ogden “has been unjustly enriched” by failing to give its customers an honest measure of beer.
The suit calls for a permanent injunction to halt the sale of beer in “misadvertised, misrepresented or misleading quantities. ”
A hearing on the complaint may be held in Common Pleas Court as early as next month.
Yesterday, Pollock and Jacoby insisted they were serious about their lawsuit.
“They’re misrepresenting what they’re selling,” said Pollock, who lives in the Somerton section of the Northeast.
He and Jacoby are longtime Philadelphia sports fans. Pollock likes the Phils best. Jacoby is an Eagles season-ticket holder. They work together at a Northeast company that rebuilds engine components.
“It’s such a rip-off to begin with, the prices they charge you,” Jacoby said.
“Then, they search you when you walk in to make sure you’re not smuggling in something to drink,” he continued. “They search through your sandwiches to make sure there’s no beer in there. I’ve seen some ingenious stuff, the way people sneak beer into the Vet.
“But the way they treat you, I really feel like a criminal when I go down there. ”
Jacoby said he and Pollock have griped for years about the Vet’s concessions, but it wasn’t until they read details of the Joe Sixpack investigation that they decided to sue.
”We got excited when we read about them selling short cups of beer,” Jacoby said. “If they’re doing something intentional like that, we should make them pay for it.”