Consider for a moment, the Musikfest beer mug, which every August appears by the tens of thousands in downtown Bethlehem.
They are so colorful, so festive, so collectible, so utilitarian, so … controversial?
On Tuesday, the state Senate unanimously approved a proposal by state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, Lehigh, Monroe, that would allow licensed bars and taverns to sell “beer to go” to patrons during Musikfest and other city festivals during which the city suspends its “open beverage container” laws.
The proposal, part of a larger bill relating to liquor enforcement at happy hours and catered events, must now go to the state House for approval, according to a news release issued by Boscola’s office today.
Ostensibly, the mugs are sold by ArtsQuest, which also sells beer at a number of dispensing tents set up around the festival. All of it is a fundraiser, which helps pay for ArtsQuest to pay the cost of putting on the mostly free music festival.
But for more than 20 years, several downtown bars, including Ripper’s Pub and the Old Brewery Tavern, have also sold mug refills, and at a lower price than Musikfest, which patrons can then take back out onto the street to resume enjoying the festival.
Last year, Liquor Control Enforcement agents started to threaten these bars with a crackdown, forcing them to curtail the practice of refilling Musikfest mugs.
“The beer-to-go tradition during Musikfest has dated back for more than 20 years,” Boscola said through the news release. “Local bars and taverns count on that revenue every year, especially since Musikfest cuts down on their regular business because of parking shortages during the celebration.
“The beer-to-go tradition had never been an issue or problem and I was disappointed by the LCE’s newfound and hard-line enforcement stance against these licensees. My legislation will clarify the legitimacy of this tradition once and for all.”