Ever heard of a â€œbeer towerâ€?
For the uninitiated, beer towers are sort of a pitcher on steroids — a type of mini, skinny, new-aged keg. You can view beer towers for home use [alas, empty] from $35 on Amazon.Â There are also more commercial versions.
A single beer tower typically holds as much liquid as two or three pitchers (or, as we say around my house, â€œone Uncle Lesterâ€). Some beer towers have options, like an ice chamber to keep the beverage of your choice chilled while you and your posse â€œworkâ€ on emptying the tower. Others have interior lights to entertain if not illuminate the beery-eyed. No word yet on automatic transmissions, power steering, audio systems or â€“ heaven forbid! â€“ brakes.
Which gets us to the legal part of this blog. Certain local restaurants have used beer towers to serve beer in their licensed establishments. Indeed, weâ€™re told that beer towers are particularly favored by the considerate kind of folk who hate to inconvenience their fellow patrons by monopolizing a serverâ€™s time in continually refilling their glasses or pitchers.
Which leads to the â€œissue,â€ as we say in legalese. For, you see, bulk consumer beer table service is not necessarily favored by the licensing authorities. Indeed, years ago the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (â€œABCCâ€) adopted a set of regulations (â€œRegsâ€) that are now universally known as the â€œHappy Hour Regsâ€. For those of us who matured prior to their adoption â€“ and remember real, live, actual Happy Hours â€“ the Happy Hour Regs really should be called the â€œElimination of Happy Hourâ€ Regs, since they prohibit a number of once common methods of enticing people into bars and restaurants to enjoy themselves and spend money while overdrinking â€“ practices including free drinks, reduced-priced drinks, increased-volume drinks, fixed-price drinking, and drinking games, contests and prizes. The Happy Hour Regs are reprinted in full on the ABCCâ€™s website.
Two particular Happy Hour Regs with potentially specific application to restaurant beer towers prohibit (1) the delivery of â€œmore than two drinks to one person at one timeâ€, and (2) the sale, offer to sell, or delivery of â€œmalt beverages or mixed drinks by the pitcher except to two or more persons at any one timeâ€. Those of you whoâ€™ve gone to law school, or perhaps have just developed an unholy love for beer towers, might point out that a beer tower could be considered a â€œsingleâ€ drink, since after all a tower IS a single if somewhat super-sized container. We might call this the â€œUncle Lester Provisoâ€. Other quibblers might note that a beer tower is not a â€œpitcherâ€. We might call this â€“ especially around Yankees fans â€“ the â€œCarl Pavano Exceptionâ€.
However, such creativity would certainly be lost on the licensing authorities in Boston, and probably just about anywhere.Â The March of Progress is not always a straight line.