The System Really Is Rigged: City Officials Bend Booze, Ridesharing Rules During DNC, RNC

City-goers can enjoy 4 a.m. last-calls and Uber-X-a-plenty this week in Philly. So why not always?


Ricky Fitchett/ZUMA Press/Newscom

During the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia this week, select watering holes are enjoying a reprieve from some of the state's strict liquor laws and Uber X drivers are out and proud. 

For convention week, Philly bars, restaurants, hotels, and event spaces were allowed to apply for permits granting them the privilege to serve thirsty politicos until 4 a.m.—last call is usually 2 a.m. The DNC host committee negotiated this late-night privilege for local businesses, payed the one-time application fee, and helped the city's Liquor Control Board review applications. At least 20 Philly venues were granted permission to stay open late. 

Contra the regular rules, venues will also be able to serve wine and spirits from non-state sources from July 25-28. Generally, they must purchases these from pricey state-run stores. The state said the rule change allows venues to serve alcohol that has been donated and for out-of-towners to host events featuring booze from their home states. 

Cleveland saw similar rule-bending when the Republican National Convention (RNC) came to town last week. More than 200 venues applied for a temporary extension of drinking hours from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. These waivers were made possible by a January 2016 state law saying cities hosting "major events" could ask the Ohio Division of Liquor Control for a temporary out from the usual alcohol rules. For the RNC, individual businesses in and around Cleveland had to apply for extensions by March 21; those that were picked were vetted by local police and sheriff departments before having their info submitted to Liquor Control, which issued waivers in June.  

It's not just booze getting a special dispensation during convention time. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf approved a bill allowing ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Philadelphia throughout the summer. Until recently, Uber X drivers could be found in Philly, but they were operating only semi-legally—city transit authorities even allegedly conducted stings on Uber X drivers

Pennsylvania lifted anti-ridesharing rules for Philadelphia just in time for the Democratic convention. Under the approval, companies must pay 1 percent of gross receipts from fares to the city Parking Authority, which will then turn over two-thirds of this money to Philadelphia schools.  

Kudos to Cleveland and Philadelphia for being adaptable and allowing temporary modifications that help convention-goers get around and get drunk. But if these cities can handle ridesharing and 4 a.m. last-calls at a time when tens-of-thousands of out-of-towners have descended, mightn't they be able to handle them when the hubbub dies down, too? Of course, for the DNC and RNC, we have powerful interests pressuring officials to suspend their nanny-statism for the common good. At most other times, we see pressure going the other way, with taxi cartels, state liquor agencies, and others invested in the status quo. The situations in Cleveland and Philadelphia are a good reminder that when it comes to things like occupational licensing, zoning laws, liquor regulations, and the like, "protecting public health/safety/morals" is very often code for making sure the system is rigged in the right way. 

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  1. But if these cities can handle ridesharing and 4 a.m. last-calls at a time when tens-of-thousands of out-of-towners have descended, mightn’t they be able to handle them when the hubbub dies down, too?

    This is why we can’t have nice things. Give you people an inch and you want a mile. If the cities allowed drinking up to 4am regularly, what would happen to those private afterhours clubs?

  2. If you went to those conventions, you should be forced to stay stone cold sober throughout.

    1. Either that, or be forced to continually inhale a nitrous oxide – helium – oxygen mixture.

      1. You want to give them oxygen? Softie.

  3. I wandered around downtown Pittsburgh once for nearly an hour trying to figure out where I could buy beer to take back to my hotel. I kept finding stores that would sell me wine or hard liquor, but not beer

    1. You needed to stop by a bar. Bars sell six packs. Recently, some big convenience stores and large grocery stores can, too. But they aren’t in dawntawn Pittsburgh.

  4. Bars closing before 4am are erupted boils on America’s ass.

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  6. These were last-minute agreements to get the budget passed without a 9 month delay like last year.

    As for liquor, Wolf will never sign a privatization bill. They got a liquor “modernization” bill enacted, but it seems to think that allowing beer and wine sales in supermarkets will encourage PA residents to drink so much more booze as to generate $125 million more dollars a year.

    They also wanted to let casinos sell booze around the clock instead of cutting it off between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. and pay $1 million more a year for that privilege. Nobody talked to the 12 casinos about this, and they all say there’s no way in hell they’re paying a megabuck for that kind of license. So the budget is $12 million short right off the bat.

    1. OK, so between the two bills, they will potentially raise $137 million. So spend the money now because, hey, when are budget predictions ever wrong?

  7. They’re acting with such blatant favoritism, I wouldn’t be surprised if they come right out and say that people with specially-issued Party cards will be able to hail Uber cars and buy drinks between 2 and 4 AM, while people without the cards are denied that privilege.

  8. Im not sure anyone deserves kudos for this nonsense. Whatever tiny increase in aggregate freedom (if that,s even a real thing) it accounts for is offset (many times over, according to a guess of mine based on nothing) by papering over problems when pols are present

  9. The city is run by rabid socialists. Of course they play favorites.

  10. Comrade Kenney (the mayor) also changed some crimes from arrestable offenses to simple tickets before the DNC. Crimes like disorderly conduct fall under this new policy. Many believe this was to kowtow to the Bernie nuts.

  11. Good question. Anyone have an equally good answer?

  12. Statists gonna state – lessin’ of cos’ its a statist-sanctioned statist event.

  13. FYTW

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