Pennsylvania is an odd state in that we do not allow discounts for drinkers. While you may be able to get a slightly cheaper price by being a “member” of your grocery store, favorite restaurant, movie theater, or hell even gas station being a “member” of your local bar can only gain you discounts on items that do not contain alcohol. This decision by our state legislature singles out purveyors of alcohol.
This is actually a hindrance on breweries, bars, and bottle shops. While bottle shops would love to offer discounts on alcohol like any other stores they at least have the advantage of being able to quickly modify inventory to keep drinkers interested. While Lancaster Brewing Company or Springhouse’s Taproom may have a staple four or five flagship beers and three or four rotating seasonals to bring in business they cannot be expected to compete with the Federal Taphouse that has 100 beers on tap that regularly rotate based on interest and demand.
In other states, in other bars, there is the idea of the mug club. This allows loyal drinkers to pay a membership fee (or be lucky enough to be invited to join) and they drink more for less. They either get a discount on the beer they drink at the bar or they might get a full imperial pint for the price of a liquid pint. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board cracked down on Iron Hill Brewery in 2012 for this very practice. They offered mug club members discounts on 24oz pints and had a loyalty program where they could collect “points” that got discounts on beer. This crackdown motivated many other bars to cease their illegal mug club benefits as well and in many ways killed mug club culture in Pennsylvania.
Yet in 2014 House Bill 2069 passed 174-22 in the Pennsylvania House. This bill would reverse the current legislation and allow liquor licensees to offer discounts on brewed or malt beverages. While the bill has to pass the state Senate and be signed by the governor this is a great first step for those wanting to sell beer at a discount and revive the mug club culture in Pennsylvania.
There is an amendment to the bill that prohibits bars from offering the club discounts or disproportionate serving amounts between midnight to 2:00am. Those in favor of the bill, like Iron Hill Brewery, state that this restriction is in place for happy hour programs as well. State law dictates that bars cannot have happy hour specials more than 14 hours a week and no more than four hours in a single day. They also cannot offer these happy hour specials after midnight. This bill would work well within that timeframe and help keep overzealous mug club members from driving drunk.
It would be nice to be rewarded financially for being an avid drinker. I have never been a member of a mug club as I never really saw the reason to do so. Though if my favorite watering holes would allow discounts for being such a loyal customer than I would happily join a program that would further encourage my loyalty.
So mug club members rejoice! It might not be a status symbol for much longer.