Then twenty-somethings Matt Joyce and Tim Ifill were having the same kind of friendly planning conversation a few years ago that many people have across the city every night. The friends, who in 2004 founded Philly Fellows
, the organization that works to create a pipeline of talent for city nonprofits, were pondering where they could stop off and get a six-pack of beer to bring to a social gathering.
In some states, it's a non-issue. You can't walk 50 feet without running into a convenient takeout spot. In Pennsylvania, however, it's a little different, what with its complicated and antiquated liquor laws. Different levels of costly licenses, and the seemingly random stipulations that come attached to them, create a maze of sorts for six-pack hunters.
That led Joyce, 30, over the last few months to create Philly6ers
, an online resource for easily locating and rating nearby pizza shops and delis that sell takeout beer. The site has approached 1,500 visitors in the last week, according to Joyce, and he is already planning a mobile app and statewide expansion (PA6ers).
"It seems to address a pretty commonly held frustration in Philly, so the general feedback has been positive," Joyce says. He is still weighing an official launch event and whether he'll try to make the site profitable. Having worked his entire career in the nonprofit sector -- most recently for the William Penn Foundation – the Philadelphia resident is mostly focused on making the site a strong resource rather than a business.
Joyce pulled data from licensing information from the PA Liquor Control Board for all "E" licensed retailers in the city. That license is typically issued to eateries to sell takeout beer. Not a complete stranger to building websites – he and Ifil built the Philly Fellows site – Joyce leaned on Google to make the data presentable and functional.
"It ties in so nicely to Google spreadsheets and forms and now something called Fusion Tables, that if you know a little bit of Excel and can make data tables relate to each other, Google makes it easy to present this data online," Joyce says. "It's fun."
Philly6ers has already taught Joyce a thing or two. For one, some areas of Philly are relative beer deserts, like Fishtown and Port Richmond, which, according to the site, are practically devoid of licensed takeout spots. Joyce wonders why some areas are like that, while most of West Philly is covered with licensed establishments. Also, Joyce has discovered that the seemingly random and usually empty seating areas at small delis are mandated by law. Topics like these are covered on the Philly6ers blog
One thing Joyce says he'll have to negotiate is how to handle bars that are licensed to sell six-packs. While many of us have asked nicely and overpaid for a brown paper bag full of loose cans or bottles of beer in an establishment that might technically allowed to sell takeout, Joyce does not want to dilute the Philly6ers database with those bars. Rather, he wants to include only those state-appointed "R" retailers with real capacity to do so. Since that data is not easily attainable, user feedback will be key.
Joyce is thrilled that he is already hearing feedback from those who have successfully used the resource. He jokes that the 76ers might send him a cease and desist order.
"But I have to imagine the Sixers organization is just as interested in knowing which delis sell beer as the rest of us," he says.
: Matt Joyce, Philly6ers
: Joe Petrucci