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Will water pong be banned in Boston?

The Boston Licensing Board on Thursday considers whether to effectively prohibit city bars from offering a game that's played like beer pong, only with water.

The board will not be drafting a new regulation, but instead deciding whether to sanction Goodbar, a State Street bar cited by police on Nov. 19 for putting out a series of cups filled with water on a small table into which competing players tried to bounce ping-pong balls.

Unlike in beer pong, in which the loser has to chug down any cups his opponent gets the ball into, losing players were observed taking swigs from beer bottles they were holding, Det. William Gallagher told the board at a hearing this morning. Gallagher was at the bar that night for a routine inspection.

Bar manager Ann Marie King and attorney Carolyn Conway said there's really no comparison between water pong and beer pong. In fact, King said the water pong her bar - and, she said, most other bars in Boston - offer is more akin to backgammon, foosball or ring toss than the drinking man's drinking game, because only water is involved.

"I know it seems like a frat-house, Neanderthal game, but it's really silly," King said.

A skeptical board Chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer, however, said the distinction between a game in which players chug from a ball-filled cup and one in which they chug from their own beer bottles escaped her.

Board member Suzanne Ianella expressed no opinion on the matter. The third board member, Milton Wright, was not present.

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Comments

That song suddenly comes to mind...

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I'm going to assume that since she needed to examine the bottle of vodka to determine whether it was vodka, she's going to need to play said beer-pong-like game in order to determine whether it indeed meets the definition.

Adam, will you be photographing this investigation?

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for her!

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This woman is really annoying. Nobody's dying from water pong in Boston bars. But if she wants to take this route, then you might as well outlaw board games (Cornwall's, Penguin Pizza, Mass Ave Tavern), darts (pretty much everywhere), and pool (pretty much everywhere), because CLEARLY people play these games at bars in order to get totally schnockered (because going shot for shot doesn't do the same thing).

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When you put water in the cups, all you have is somebody DRINKING AN (EXPLETIVE) BEER IN A BAR. Which is already permitted in Boston.

Like, are you a complete cultural ignoramus? You're not that old, right? Are you somehow unfamiliar with the concept of beer pong? The bar gets the frickin' point. They know there's no chance in hell that having beer in the cups at a Boston bar would ever fly. They're not morons. They're not going to facilitate beers with dirty balls in them being consumed on their premises.

And you guys couldn't even get your third member to show up for this. You meet twice a week, and it's your fulltime job, and he still misses the meeting. Boston: Employing the Unemployable Since 1620.

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I agree with you that Boston has some bassackwards ways of doing things, but I think if I were a young superstar of a lawyer who were offered a job like that, I'd take it too, and I'd work hard at doing it according to the books.

Complain about the stupid laws, yes, but no need to make personal attacks on someone who's doing her job of enforcing stupid laws.

(FWIW, I think that having a bar actually setting up and sponsoring a drinking game is different from people in a bar starting their own. If a bar is providing a setup of cups and balls, it's pretty clear what the point of this activity is. Other things like darts or pool or cards could be used for drinking games, but can just as easily be enjoyed without and aren't screaming "play drinking game with me" in the same way.)

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If there's a tangible law against water pong, then you are right and I am wrong. Also, if there's a tangible law against water pong, somebody on Beacon Hill needs to get a frickin' life.

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Because it's no longer a drinking game.

People legitimately play water pong now, not bothering with the binge drinking aspect. It's a very popular game, and involves just as much skill as darts.

There's also laws on the books making sure that bars are responsible for binge drinking and things like chugging and drinking contests. They're to stop it and boot offenders out.

So enforce the laws on the books, and stop the FUD attacking water pong, when there's nothing prohibiting it. Writing up a bar for patrons sipping beers while playing water pong is akin to writing up bars for patron sipping beers while play darts.

If something else was going on, cite them for that. There's laws against drinking contests, regardless of the game pieces. Doesn't sound like anything of the sort was happening here.

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Someone who makes a career out of enforcing stupid laws deserves just as much scorn as those who create them. Calling it your job doesn't make it right.

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You got "dirty balls" and a "third member" ... all in one post!

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because it seems you'd have to jump through quite a few circus hoops to get your logic to circle round to that conclusion.

Is this board agenda really empty that they need to bring crap like this to the floor? Are they going to try ban billiards, tv football games, and all alcoholic beverages for fear someone might come to a bar to enjoy these things?

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Although the board does occasionally ask police to investigate specific locations (typically to see if a restaurant or bar is still in business, as Todd English found out), in general, they only hold hearings on citations issued by Boston Police, either from the fulltime licensed-premises division, which conducts unscheduled inspections of bars and restaurants, or from beat officers responding to 911 or other calls at those locations (well, technically, from the beat officers' supervisors).

In this particular case, as I mentioned, Det. Gallagher (and his partner, Det. Mulvey) walked into the bar and issued a citation for "allowing beer pong drinking game on premise" in violation of state law (they also found an underage drinker).

It's funny you mention billiards and football on TV, because those fall under the purview of the Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, which holds its own hearings, which means bars, their lawyers and witnesses often have to endure two hearings on the same exact incident, once before the Mayor's Office if the place has any sort of entertainment license, once before the Boston Licensing Board, if the place has a food or alcohol license. Is this a stupid waste of time? You bet.

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Thanks Adam!

It's this redundancy and illogical way of doing things that needs pressure put on it to make life easier on business owners in this city.

Protecting the public health is one thing, fleecing business owners for political and monetary support through "Helping to navigate" antiquated and nonsensical laws is another.

As for water pong, as far as I can tell it's completely legal as long as it's not advertised as beer pong and water is used. I'm not sure why the citation wouldn't be thrown out, and the issue dropped. I couldn't find the law, but it sounds like it's similar to Michigan where "it is illegal to play any game in a licensed establishment where alcohol is involved". If MA is going to deem sipping a beer while playing water pong breaking that rule, every bar in the city should be shut down by next week unless they remove all gaming and entertainment devices.

Funny enough, also found this when trying to track down the laws on beer pong:

http://blogs.wpri.com/2011/09/28/gop-state-represe...

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I agree with everyone here. Find something more important to report on. Billiards and darts have been played in bars for decades, water pong is the same thing- drinking is not required, it is a fun and social game of skill. Does Detective Gallagher ponder writing a citation every time a patron shoots a 340 pound deer in "Buck Hunter" and then proceeds to take a swig of his own beer?

Give me a Break Detective, lets not waste more tax payers money wasting our time on this!

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My name is Marc Jamieson and I organize these "Water Pong" tournaments around the city. I've organized public events across 22 States and we have never had a citation or any kind of issue with safety or state violations. We use water in the playing cups. "Water Pong" is not and should not be illegal, it is a social game of skill that does not entice any sort of alcohol consumption. Lets please focus on the more important problems in Boston. Thank you.

Marc Jamieson
All American Beer Pong
[email protected]

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...isn't Chairwoman Murati-Ferrer HOT?!

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