The Downtown Bethlehem Association (DBA) announced a very unpopular decision today to not allow concertgoers at the Tunes at Twilight outdoor concert series to bring their own booze.
For the past seven years the city has been hosting the popular music series, drawing hundreds every Thursday to the Sun Inn Courtyard on Bethlehem’s north side. Since the beginning patrons have been bringing their own drinks to enjoy while watching the bands, but the Downtown Bethlehem Association cited liability issues as the reason for now disallowing outside booze.
Legally, the state’s Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has no laws on the books about open containers and those laws are set at the local level. The DBA utilizes a ‘special occasion’ liquor license from the PLCB which allows them to serve their own beer and wine within a permitted area during their events. It also holds them liable for everyone consuming alcohol in that permitted area, whether or not the alcohol was purchased via the liquor license holder. That means if patrons bring in their own alcohol and get overly intoxicated or if minors are consuming alcohol on the premises, the DBA is still liable for those patrons.
Interestingly enough, the city’s code regarding open containers states, “Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages at a function or activity for which a special occasion permit has been issued by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board…” It states nothing about necessitating the purchase of beverages from the licensed authority. A representative of Bethlehem’s economic development office tweeted at us that because the DBA holds a permit for use for the courtyard, they are allowed to serve beverages for consumption whereas the patrons don’t have such a permit, so they would be violating city policy. A review of the DBA’s agreement with the city and comparison with the city’s open container laws show that argument may not hold up. Still, the lessee of the space generally has discretion of how they use the space, despite it being an open air, public venue.
The decision, of course, was not popular with concertgoers and many took to the DBA’s Facebook page to voice their displeasure. One fan of the concerts, Dennis Harbon, claimed the ban is, “the beginning of the end of tunes at twilight. Sad news.” Many Tunes attendees would typically bring coolers from home or fill growlers of beer across the street at Brew Works. A few accused the DBA of banning beverages as a simple money grab to fatten their coffers, while others called for more varied options of brews and wine.
The Downtown Bethlehem Association did not respond to a request for comment on this article, and it remains to be seen how they plan to enforce the ban on BYOB tomorrow evening.
I would advocate to allow growlers since the Tunes at Twilight is supposed to support the downtown businesses. I also understand the need to limit carry-ins because – well, gee…. the DBA needs money to promote all the stuff they do to bring folks downtown. The musicians need to get paid, folks. Marketing also has a cost. OK, let’s ask for better beer/wine to be available.
I get that change sucks because it’s something different that we didn’t think of doing on our own. But let’s think beyond our navels just for a minute. We can all still have fun being together and enjoying our community. And while we’re there, let’s buy other stuff in the restaurants and stores so that the small businesses on Main Street actually stay in business.
Looking at the GLVCC’s latest 990 and their 30-person staff listing, I find it very hard to believe they’re starving for money so bad that they have to ban outside alcohol at Tunes at Twilight.
We can all sit on the side walk just outside the courtyard with our open containers I suppose…
They have only been selling alcohol the past 2 (maybe 3 years), how did they get by with funding before that? A boycott of the sponsor is in order (that of course makes so sense but love the idea!), I already boycott Star Hill as all their beers except one sux.
– Bethlehem Ford
– D’Huy Engineering
– Merchants Bank
– Star Hill Brewery
This is not about funding, but liability and safety. As an organizer of events I can tell you that if someone brings their own liquor and there is an accident the event is responsible. In order to keep this FREE community event going, polices, and laws need to be followed. Event organizers cannot monitor liquor consumption of patrons that brought their own.
Thank you Silagh for encouraging everyone to support local businesses! That’s what this fun evening is about. Bringing people to the downtown and helping small businesses thrive.
Like I said on Twitter, I definitely understand the reasoning in rationale behind it, especially from a non-profit’s perspective (which I happen to have a lot of experience in). It sucks, but that’s the way it has to be.
It figures the first night of the new rule against byob is the very night that the band performing has a homebrewer trying to go pro brewery as one of their members. DOH! So much for “sharing” tasty homebrew samples tonight. We still plan on having a good time but it appears we’ll be handing over some of the bass players earnings so his wife can have a beer or two… hopefully there’s something on tap for the discerning beer drinkers palate. 😉