City to probe unfair stadium beer practices

An unwritten rule that lets corporate honchos and wealthy fans avoid the high price of Veterans Stadium beer is under review by the mayor’s office.

While average fans are prohibited from bringing their own suds to the park, management at the city-owned facility allows penthouse suite and super box ticketholders to stock their own booze.

The discriminatory practice, disclosed yesterday in the Daily News, costs the city an estimated $200,000 a year in lost concession fees and beer taxes.

“Your story today raised issues that need to be addressed,” the mayor’s deputy, Kevin Feeley, told Joe Sixpack. “We’re looking into it to see how widespread the practice is,” he said.

Earlier, Hizzoner told radio reporter Tom MacDonald of Metro Networks that he was surprised to learn of the luxury loophole.

Calling the policy “clearly unfair,” Rendell promised he’d look into it. A spokesman for the stadium concessionaire, Ogden Entertainment, declared:

“This is not our policy. The city of Philadelphia and the sports teams set and control the policy concerning beer and outside catering at the Vet. ”

Feeley and other sources said the practice has been in effect at least since Ogden took over the Vet contract 13 years ago. The unwritten policy apparently evolved when wealthy box tenants rebelled against the cost of Ogden booze.

Currently, luxury box tenants who make the mistake of ordering beer through Ogden pay up to $80 for a case of domestic beer.

An unknown number of these affluent fans opt to bring their own to the stadium.

While average fans are searched at the gate, luxury box tenants are greeted and issued a hand-truck to cart case upon case of cheap beer to their seats.

“These are obviously preferred customers because they’re spending a lot of money for the boxes,” said Greg Grillone, the city employee who manages the stadium, explaining the reasoning behind the policy.

“We’re trying to make the experience a pleasurable one,” he said. “We don’t want to price them out of the market. ”

Feeley said Rendell does not bring his own beer to the mayor’s box on the 400 level of the Vet.

“He gets it from Ogden,” Feeley said.

The BYO policy costs the city its 20 percent cut of luxury box beer sales and, if the beer is purchased outside Philadelphia, another 7 percent in alcohol sales taxes.

Based on concession sales records, the loophole costs taxpayers about $200,000 a year.

Average fans reacted yesterday with surprise and outrage when they learned of special privileges for the elite.

“Why should the corporate snobs receive that luxury?” one e-mail correspondent wrote. “Most of us average Joes can barely afford the ticket prices, let alone concessions. ”

Ines Stelzer, a Roxborough mom, said she’s contemplating a discrimination suit against the stadium.

A couple of weeks ago, she and her family were booted from a game when her husband was caught sneaking a couple of cans of Bud from cooler.

“We got ratted out by a little kid in front of us,” Stelzer said.

“We left with no argument, we were breaking the rules. But we spent close to $90 before we got thrown out. Now that I read that luxury boxes get to bring their own beer to the game, I want my money back. ”

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