Those pop-up beer gardens the City of Philadelphia was hoping to operate in up to 18 different parks this summer? They’re happening, big time.
Avram Hornik of FCM Hospitality has signed on as vendor-partner for what’s now being called “Parks on Tap.”
Hornik has plenty of cred here, and not just because he’s the operator of ultra-popular riverside deck bar Morgan’s Pier (in addition to five other bars around Philly). He’s the man who deserves credit for kickstarting the whole Philly beer garden craze in the first place when he partnered with PHS to launch the Broad Street pop-up in 2013.
Previously known by the less-sexy title “Mobile Food & Beverage Garden Program,” the city parks project is a collaboration between the Fairmount Park Conservancy, a privately-run nonprofit, and the municipal Parks and Recreation Department.
The traveling beer garden will launch June 29 on the Schuylkill Banks at the Walnut Street Bridge, and then move to 13 other locations around the city, finishing at Lemon Hill on October 2 (see full schedule below). Drinks and food will be served from a pair of concession trucks, one offering beer, wine and non-alcholic beverages and the other a menu of sandwiches, salads, “grab-n-go items” and “pie in a jar.”
A pre-proposal meeting last February attended by more than a hundred interested bar and restaurant owners left many of them confused by and wary about the requirements of the partnership, which include handing over a percentage of gross and a per-diem fee to the city, plus assuming all responsibility for liability and cleanup.
Indeed, Hornik’s was the only proposal the city received.
But Hornik has had lots of success with unorthodox venues — in addition to Morgan’s Pier, see South Philly’s revived music venue Dolphin Tavern, West Philly’s indoor beer garden William Street Commons and Spring Garden concert hall Union Transfer (from which he recently divested) — so his decision to jump in and try something new isn’t surprising.
Before Hornik convinced PHS to partner on the Broad Street pop-up garden in 2013, the concept hadn’t really been tried here.
“[The city] fought that tooth and nail!” Hornik recalls with a chuckle. “I figured out the zoning issues, the legality with the LCB, spent the money, created the design — it was a fun challenge.”
He expects the traveling pop-ups in city parks to present a similar challenge — one that he’s again looking forward to.
“Like anything else, [operating Parks on Tap] doesn’t make sense unless you look at it in the long term,” he says. “In the short term, it’s investing a tremendous amount of time and capital in something that’s not a proven concept.
“But it’s a new way of looking at parks — adding amenities so that people want to come. City parks shouldn’t be like a formal English garden, where you walk through and don’t touch anything. This makes them more of a resource, not less of a resource. That’s the city’s view, and I agree with them.
“When they create an opportunity, that’s the time for new ideas.”