Sign Of The Crimes Where Did They Chug Evidence?

Posted: April 25, 1998

The beer police swooped down on Veterans Stadium yesterday after reports by the Daily News that the Phillies were selling short cups of brew.

But they found no evidence of the half-million-dollar suds-skimming scam because they arrived too late and inspected too little.

They didn't even tap a beer.

Accompanied by Joe Sixpack, four agents from the Department of Licenses and Inspections visited the Vet's bowels to check out the shallow swallows.

Two days ago, I reported that the Phillies' 18- and 12-ounce cups of Budweiser and Miller Lite - among the most expensive in the Major Leagues - were consistently short by two ounces.

One step ahead of the law, though, the Phillies concessionaire removed critical evidence of the scam. Gone were the large signs that clearly stated the quantity of Vet beers.

Without the signs, L&I Inspector Michele DeMarshall told me, the stadium could not be found liable for false advertising.

``It's out of our hands at this point,'' DeMarshall said.

The L&I look-see, however, was about as thorough as a chemical weapons investigation led by Sadaam Hussein.

The agents politely announced themselves at the front desk of the stadium concessionaire, Ogden Entertainment. After a 15-minute briefing (out of Joe Sixpack's earshot) with Ogden General Manager Brian Hastings, they trudged up to the so-called Food Court.

Then they were escorted to a single stand - handpicked by Hastings - that was devoid of any signs advertising quantity of beer.

Satisfied the joint was clean, the inspectors filled out a few forms. Then - without pouring a single beer - they left.

None of the stadium's 59 other concession stands (which were sealed with metal grates) was opened for inspection.

L&I Commissioner Fran Egan seemed satisfied with the results - till I told her that her crack team had failed to snoop around.

``My inspectors didn't walk around?'' she asked. ``I would want them to do that. I would have thought that was an obvious given: Check the advertising at all the stands down there.''

Afterwards, Ogden execs crowed to news reporters that the city had declared my allegations were ``completely unfounded.''

The company refused to say why they had removed the beer signs. In a faxed, 58-word statement, Hastings said, ``Only two sizes of beer are sold at the Vet - regular and large. That's what the Vet signs say.''

(In fact, they don't say that at all, and never did. Now that the ounce markings have been removed, they say only $4 and $5.)

Despite the brewing storm, the company for the second consecutive day declared, ``In our 13 years at the Vet, we have never had one complaint about the beer.''

At $5 a cup, the shortened brews cost consumers an estimated $495,000 last year.

Mayor Rendell (a longtime friend of Phillies president Dave Montgomery) defended the stadium food operation.

Hizzoner told Daily News reporter Dave Davies, ``I think the Food Court has improved the level of service and the type of options you have. And some of the dishes in the Food Court - the fried chicken's great, the tacos are great . . . ''

WHERE DID THEY CHUG EVIDENCE? Joe Sixpack is puzzled about the whereabouts of the Vet's beer signs.

The placards show a pair of cups, clearly marked as 18- and 12-ouncers.

Did Ogden Entertainment, the company in charge of stadium concessions, trash them or just stash them?

In either case, I'd like to get my hands on one. So here's an offer to any honest employee at the Vet: Bring Joe Sixpack one of those signs, and I'll give you four six-packs of Phillies Beer.

Haven't heard of Phillies Beer? A six-pack has just five bottles.

Bring the sign to Joe Sixpack at the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19101. Your anonymity will be protected.

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