Updated after the jump with a response from the department, who claims Beerathon organizers need their own liquor license.
Originally posted at 6:45 a.m.
Was it too impossibly awesome to last? For $55, beerathoners were to be handed a 12-oz. beer at each of 26 bars downtown, over 13 hours. Sort of like the dance of death that frat boys are rumored to do on their 21st birthdays, only classier and hoppier and certified by Beerathon LLC.
But no longer!
The Man's shitshow radar apparently went off sometime yesterday, and the Beerathon folks were forced to post this message to their Facebook page:
"Because of a dispute with the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, the organizers of the L.A. Beerathon will be refunding your ticket. You will be receiving an email to this effect from our Ticketing Agent explaining how this refund will work within the next day or two.
At issue is the idea that the beer to be consumed at the event was "free". Thus the day is not being cancelled, as the venues will STILL have EXCELLENT drink and food specials, as well as fun entertainment that is still planned. It will simply not be "free". Of course, since you all paid $55, and the bars would still be compensated, it wasn't exactly free, but that's the kind of semantics that you'll have to take up with the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control."
We were thinking the event might be cancelled more for encouraging a bunch of pedestrians to get completely blasted -- even to wear the drool as a badge of honor. As organizer "Sam" told our food blog yesterday morning, when the future still looked bright, "Competing in the Los Angeles Beerathon is an honor in itself and finishing it in any capacity is an honor, too. If you climb a mountain like Mount Kilamanjaro, when you get up to the top, it's an accomplishment in and of itself. You don't get an award for it. You just do it for the personal gratification of taking on a seemingly impossible challenge and conquering it."
OK, this is getting far too awesome to be reality. And indeed, the "free" excuse could just be a legal in-road for the career buzz-killers at Alcoholic Beverage Control. (Other trophy heads on their wall include alcoholic energy drink Four Loko.)
But the really annoying thing about the crackdown is that Beerathons have been going off hitchless in New York City for five years now. Why do you have to be so down, New York State Liquor Authority? Can you please waft some of your Euro sensibilities out westward for the weekend?
The L.A. Beerathon hints that it only takes one sober Sally with a badge to ruin the dreams of 4,000 bar flies (kill the beast!):
"We tried every possible solution and suggested every possible alternative, but a particular inspector at the ABC was already 100% committed to shutting down the event."
Frustrated as they are, organizers assure you that you'll get your money back.
And they still want you to brave the course by paying for each beer individually, in the name of "friendships":
"We still want you to have a great time. Remember, the day is not being cancelled, as the venues will STILL be open at the time originally planned, will STILL have EXCELLENT drink and food specials, as well as fun entertainment that is still planned. We just have to be removed from the equation for now and refund your tickets. Participants will still be able to enjoy the camaraderie and friendship that makes a Beerathon so great. Because it starts with the beer, but it's always been about the friendships."
Don't let sober Sally win, Los Angeles. You got this.
UP NEXT: ABC responds, denies all responsibility.
John Carr, a media-relations officer for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, sends us the following statement.
"This event was not canceled by the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (CABC), but rather by the event organizers after contact by ABC informing them of the applicable state laws. CABC was not contacted in advance by the organizers of the event, but rather we contacted them as soon as the event was brought to our attention on Wednesday of this week.
The organizers do not hold any licenses authorizing them to sell alcohol. Selling alcohol without a license is a misdemeanor in California.
Had a bar/restaurant participated in this event, they would have been in violation of several sections of California law by participating in an unlicensed sale of alcohol or allowing an unlicensed person to use their license without authority. By doing so, the bars and restaurants would risk disciplinary action being filed against their alcoholic beverage licenses. Penalties can range from a fine to revocation of an ABC license.
The Department encourages community events which promote the health, safety, and well-being of the citizens of this State. In this particular event, the ticket price of $55 included 26 beers, a large quantity of alcoholic beverages. Events of this nature promote intemperance and the over-consumption of alcohol. Over-consumption of alcoholic beverages can pose a danger to public safety and lead to public intoxication, driving under the influence, and other alcohol-related crimes."
So basically, state regulators threatened Beerathon LLC with a misdemeanor unless the company obtained a liquor license within, like, 48 hours. Whether or not ABC wants to call that "canceled" is up to them -- but we do have the department to blame for no L.A. Beerathon tomorrow.
We also have the L.A. City Council and the LAPD to blame.
They're the ones who contacted Beerathon organizers with inquiries about permits on Wednesday, when they were suddenly "made aware" of what appeared to be sketchy spring-break drunkfest downtown. (Maybe if they spent more time listening to their constituents, they would have known about it. The Beerathon was all anyone could talk about for weeks.)
Here's what ABC staffer Will Salao -- who very well may be the sober Sally that Beerathon identified earlier -- is saying in response to angry people emailing him today.
"In a nutshell, the organizers were selling beer without a license ($55 gets you one beer at 26 different locations). ABC, and from my understanding, LAPD and officialswith the City of Los Angeles were only made aware of this event on Wednesday, March 28th. Had a bar/restaurant participated in this event, they would have been in violation of Sections 23355 and 25600 of the Business Professions Code."
Salao then calls out Beerathon organizer Sam using his last name (which Sam is totally not OK with), and says that "he or his organization were not familiar with California law and did not contact our agency directly prior to planning the event. Had they contacted ABC when planning the event, they would not have been in this predicament."
Power trip much?
Amy Levy, a press lady representing Beerathon, says organizers "did not know they needed a liquor license because they weren't actually going to be serving beer."
That's really the crux of this misunderstanding. Should an organization facilitating an event involving alcohol have to obtain its own liquor license? And how would that even work? Like, an omnipresent liquor license covering the entirety of downtown?
It's not as if beerathoners are going to be walking around with their cups, like this is the Vegas Strip or Isla Vista.
All the bars participating in the crawl would have split the $55, and patrons would have been served beer under each bar's liquor license. (And by our own reasoning, it seems that any fees Beerathon collected otherwise could be for the overall experience -- managerial, non-alcohol-related stuff.)
Also, ABC totally gives its true intentions away in that last paragraph.
"The Department encourages community events which promote the health, safety, and well-being of the citizens of this State"? Give us a break. Los Angeles needs to take a load off, and downtown needs some freaking action, and THE PEOPLE NEED THEIR BEERATHON.
Levy confirms that Beerathon never dealt with any of this BS in New York.
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Guess our local officials just can't stand to see thousands of Angelenos having too much fun in the desolate streets of the financial district, breathing some life (and money!) back into a struggling DTLA.
But screw them. Beers will be "heavily discounted," bands will be playing, and the brave will march on! See you downtown, L.A. hooligans. And as for next year: "We have consulted attorneys, and we'll find out where we went wrong," says Levy.
We can tell them right now: They didn't suck up to the right politicians at L.A. City Hall. Who needs a permission slip when you've paid your dues to the fun-killers who run this godforsaken place?