Mug clubs are (almost) back!
Mug club, (noun) \\’mg ‘klb\\: a group of similar minded people who frequent an establishment drinking ale from designated vessels called mugs. These groups often receive incentives or discounts from the establishment.
Bars are ultimately social places. Whether you are a seasoned regular with a designated seat or just stopping in for the first time, beer drinkers fill bars for a sense of camaraderie. To reward those regulars, many bars around the country started clubs. These “mug clubs” are not a new phenomenon in most states, but in Pennsylvania (where much of the liquor code is archaic) they are rarely seen. That may soon change.
Iron Hill Brewery (with 11 locations, including Lancaster City) got itself into some hot water a couple years ago for offering incentives with its mug club. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board took action against the brewpub chain and stymied the aspirations of any other businesses’ plans to create a customer loyalty program associated with alcohol. On Monday, June 16, the House of Representatives changed the game.
In a lopsided decision, the house voted 174 to 22 to pass bill 2069 which will ultimately reverse the current law and allow liquor license holders to offer discounts on brewed or malt beverages. The bill, created by Rep. Kurt Masser of Northumberland, specifically states: “A holder of a license under provisions of this clause may offer discounts of food or malt or brewed beverages and disproportionate serving amounts that act as a discount to patrons who are part of a bona fide club or group program offered by the licensee to promote its business or products in a commercially reasonable manner.”
The bill has now moved to the Senate for consideration and sits with the Law and Justice Committee.
Masser’s legislative assistant, Cynthia Abbott, said there is senate support for the bill, but the Senators do not plan to act on any liquor legislation in the near future. Suds fans will just have to wait a little longer for their loyalty rewards.
But the news of the bill’s passing in the House has made one local brewer anxious. Appalachian Brewing Company, which runs a muted form of a mug club now, is promising the return of the popular program’s rewards. In a recent release, ABC wrote: “We’re increasingly optimistic that the bill will pass, and you’ll soon be enjoying all of the Mug Club benefits of the past.”
The ABC mug club is limited to 250 people and currently gives members a T-shirt, appetizer specials on Mondays, a member’s-only party, and a birthday discount.
JoBoy’s (whose Lititz location will be opening soon) has no immediate plans to start a mug club. If the bill makes it through the Senate, James Ament of the Sturgis Haus says he will start a club program “with special discounts, first tastings,” and more. So, stay tuned, there may soon be one more way to enjoy craft brewing in our area.
Michael C. Upton is a freelance feature writer specializing in arts and leisure. He invites your comments and suggestions at facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.