This $28 Beer Led To An Audit Of NYC's Airport Restaurant Prices

It would seem airport retailers would be able to charge whatever they want for whatever they're selling — if only because they're literally the only retailers "in town." Nevertheless, some airports are subject to legally prescribed limits as to what is acceptable in terms of airport price-hiking (via TR Business' Consumer Forum). In fact, it wasn't all that long ago that the governing board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey began permitting retailers at the three major New York City airports — John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport — to set their prices "up to 10% higher than the current 'street pricing' threshold," as reported by the Consumer Forum in June 2020 (prior to that, retailers in these three airports were forbidden from selling items at ANY higher price than whatever price the market commands "locally outside the airports").

But it certainly couldn't have appeared that way to travelers passing through LaGuardia in search of a beer, who came across the menu at the Biergarten bar in early July. According to a tweet by bemused traveler Cooper Lund, the Biergarten was selling draughts of Sam Adams Boston Lager for the mind-bogglingly excessive price of $27.85 — and justifying it by claiming it reflects a "10% COVID Recovery Fee" on top of the $18.15 they would "ordinarily" charge (via Twitter). Here is the story of how that $28 beer led to an audit of NYC's airport restaurant prices.

The Port Authority just said no to $28 beer, but didn't appear to have a problem with $18

In June 2020, the Port Authority's governing board approved airport price increases of up to 10% higher than "street value" for the same item (via The City: NYC). This was in response to an increase in the minimum wage to be paid to many airport workers — to $19 per hour by the year 2023. Ironically, however, as was pointed out by air traveler Cooper Lund, who appears to have been the OP of a viral tweet about Biergarten's rather inflated prices at LaGuardia, the Biergarten menu specifically disclosed that "the additional 10% COVID Recovery Fee ... doesn't go to workers" (via Twitter).

"The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has since ordered [an] audit" of prices at all the retail establishments run by Biergarten's parent company, OTG, at the three major New York City airports, according to The City: NYC. "We know this market is expensive enough already, so we're committed to everything we can do to ensure reasonable prices for our customers," the outlet also quoted a Port Authority spokesperson as having stated.

Nevertheless, even after the audit, which revealed multiple overpricing violations by many other retailers as well, and inspired OTG to treat Lund to "beers on us" next time he swings by, prices are reportedly still "testing the limits" of Port Authority rules.