Vet beer suit could end in frees for all

The two greatest words in the English language spilled magically over the lips of Philadelphians yesterday. Like the foam of a perfectly poured pint of ale, the words bubbled gleefully as news of a uniquely appealing lawsuit spread throughout town:

Free beer!

Wet your whistles, sports fans. The Phillies suds-skimming scam just took a tasty twist.

Yesterday’s Daily News report that two engine mechanics had filed a class-action lawsuit against the Veterans Stadium concessionaire had locals panting over the potential beer bonanza. The suit was inspired by a Joe Sixpack investigation revealing that stadium cups contained about two ounces less drinkable beer than advertised.

Radio talk-show switchboards and my e-mail address lit up when thirsty sports fans learned that, if they had bought a cup of the Vet’s outrageously priced draft beer, they might be eligible to share in any legal victory. Though the plaintiffs are seeking cash, those familiar with class-action law suggested the settlement may be a free cup or two of ballpark brew.

But don’t yell for the bartender, yet.

And don’t pester the lawyers to join the class-action suit.

The Center City law firm that authored the lawsuit, Neil E. Jokelson & Associates, was swamped with phone calls from fans wondering how they could sign up.

“Are you kidding? The phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” said attorney Stephen Levin. “But please, don’t call us. ”

First, the lawyers must convince a Common Pleas Court judge to certify the aggrieved class, namely all those who have purchased a beer at the Vet during Phillies or Eagles games in the past four years.

If the lawyers obtain the certification and if they win the lawsuit, you’ll hear about it. That’s when you can sign up for your cut of the award.

Representatives from the ballpark concessionaire, Ogden Entertainment Services Inc., did not return my phone calls yesterday to comment on any potential settlement. Earlier, a spokesman called the lawsuit “totally absurd. ”

Meanwhile, the two guys who sued have been fielding calls and visits from supporters and reporters.

“This is such a passionate issue for sports fans in this town,” said Eric Jacoby, who filed the lawsuit, along with his cousin Paul Pollock.

“Maybe it’s just two ounces of beer, but the issue is really the stadium’s contempt for the sports fan,” Jacoby told me. “They’ve been gouging fans for years. We never had an avenue for our frustration till you caught them with their hand in the cookie jar. ”

At wallet-assaulting prices of up to 33 cents an ounce, Phillies beer is the most expensive in the National League. A 12-ounce cup of brew costs $4, an 18-ouncer is $5.

But when I took a random sampling of beer cups two weeks ago, they were consistently short by about two ounces. The value of the skimmed suds is an estimated $495,000 a year.

“It’s time to pay the piper,” Jacoby said. “It’s our turn to get a little something.”

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