PHOTOS: Manayunk bike race attendees question advertised liquor crackdown

The atmosphere was noticeably toned down at this year’s Philadelphia International Cycling Championship near the infamously steep – and infamously rowdy – Manayunk Wall, where residents have in the past complained of underage drinking and raucous house parties.

“It’s more quiet and clean,” said Danuta Rodrigue of Roxborough. “Before last year, there were so many people and it was so dirty.”

Officials announced for the second year increased enforcement measures to combat open containers, underage drinking and illegal alcohol sales, including additional barricades, uniformed and plainclothed local and state police officers, agents from the Department of Licenses and Inspections and the Liquor Control Board and expanded hours of a night “bike court” instituted last year by 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.

Inspired by the mobile Nuisance Night Court program instituted by Philadelphia’s Municipal Court in the mid-90s, the effort enables officials to immediately send those arrested to the 5th District police headquarters, where a judge can hand down fines, community service and even jail time.

Area residents were notified of the efforts through a Tuesday press conference held by civic groups and officials representing various levels of government and law enforcement, Thursday night robo-calls from the Managing Director’s Office, hand-delivered flyers from Jones’ staffers advertising a “zero-tolerance” policy and signs posted along the race route touting the same.

Though there was a heightened presence of local uniformed officers on the ground, many race-goers were dubious as to whether an actual crackdown took place. “I read about it in the paper, but I haven’t seen anything this year,” said Roxborough resident John O’Hara.

“I haven’t seen one crackdown since I’ve been here,” echoed James Bachich of Manayunk. “Look at that,” he said, gesturing to a group of young people chugging beers and ringing cowbells on a rooftop as police watched nonchalantly from the street. “They’re drinking on the roof and cops are all around. Do you think there’s a crackdown?”

One woman said that officers approached her friends’ house party early in the morning. “They said, ‘Do whatever the hell you want – as long as we can use your bathroom,'” she relayed.

Still, some proposed that, despite the perceived lack of stepped-up enforcement, its mere announcement was enough to subdue revelers. “The whole mood is killed from previous years,” said Manayunk resident Mark Shearman. “Everyone heard the advertisements.” He said that he saw no state troopers on patrol save one round officers conducted around 10 a.m.

Others attributed the tamer crowd to a change in the race itself. “The first 27 years, the guys did 10 laps,” said lifelong Manayunk man Matthew Robinson. “This year, there are seven so the amateurs can do the first three. Old-time Manayunkers are pissed off.”

“It started later and it was shorter,” agreed Nick Monteleone, who has never missed a race in the championship’s 28-year history. “I think 10:45 is a bad starting time.”

He also said that, despite public posturing and media reports, he has seen no change in alcohol enforcement over the course of the race’s nearly three-decade history. “There is no liquor crackdown,” he said “Everybody is just as drunk as ever.”

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