La Downtown News: From Beer to Tears

La Downtown News: From Beer to Tears

How the L.A. Beerathon Ended Before it Started

Apr 6, 2012

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – When his plane touched down at LAX on March 28, 2012 Sam Gelin had a lot on his mind.

The producer of the first Los Angeles Beerathon, scheduled for Saturday, March 31, wanted to make sure everything was ready. About 4,000 tickets, at $55 each, had been sold for the event that would send people to 26 Downtown bars and restaurants. They were to receive one beer at each spot.

Gelin, who had staged a similar event for five years in New York, figured everything would go off without a hitch.

He was wrong, and on the wrong side of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

“It was bizarre, almost as if they waited for my flight to land,” Gelin said this week. “I touched down and all of the sudden I get a call from the ABC.”

He said the call informed him that the event had to be called off due to regulations that prohibit bars and restaurants from giving away free beer. He said he tried to reach a compromise, even suggesting a $1 charge at each venue, but that the ABC would not budge.

By Thursday reports that the event would be called off were spreading on various blogs. A few hours later, the organizer posted the news of the cancellation on the L.A. Beerathon Facebook page. It promised refunds, urged people to still show up at the bars, and took aim at the ABC.

“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,” the post said.

By the Book

Will Salao, the district administrator for the Los Angeles ABC office, and the person who contacted Gelin Wednesday evening, said he had not heard of the event until that afternoon when he got a call from the LAPD informing him of the plans.

Gelin said he had consulted a liquor law attorney and an ABC expeditor, who he acknowledged was not an employee of the agency but a consultant familiar with its liquor laws. They assured him that the event didn’t require any permits from the ABC.

That information, said Salao, was incorrect.


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