Lack of money is all just foam

February 09, 1999

Keep in mind that, when it comes to giving money to charity, the Clear Spring American Legion is among the most generous of the county's private clubs.

Of course, all things are relative.

Here are the numbers, by Clear Spring's own accounting: In 1997 it took in $135,000 in tip jar gambling money of which it (by law) passed on $11,000 to the county Gaming Commission for distribution to charity.

Clear Spring says the burden of running the jars costs them better than $20,000 - still, even by the club's own reckoning leaving it with more than $100,000 in pure profit.

Not enough, says the Legion.

So hat in hand the club went before the Gaming Commission and asked that it be a recipient of a $5,000 charitable grant.


I was convinced this was a joke. This would be as crazy as, say, Baltimore Ravens Owner Art Modell going before the Maryland Stadium Authority and saying that in order to scrape by he needed another - no, scratch that. Too plausible.

This would be like Steve Forbes saying that without a flat tax he will be reduced to eating cat food and - no, still too plausible.

This would be like you or me going to the IRS and saying we'd like some of our tax money back because it's our strong feeling that the government takes too much. Yes, that's about right.

The Clear Spring Legion says it needs the money for scholarships. Now you might think that were it so concerned about the kids the club could find another $5,000 out of the $100,000 in gambling profits it rakes in.

What's that? You say maybe the club is already giving away the entire hundred grand to charitable causes and it just wants to do more?

Ha ha, oh mercy, you people crack me up.

No, the Legion can't spend the bulk of its own gambling profits on kids. It's too busy spending it on cheap beer.

One of the beauties of the club's application is that it has to put its own financial records on file with the Gaming Commission where the records are open to public inspection.

And such an inspection reveals that the Clear Spring American Legion loses money on beer!

Clear Spring reported it paid $19,000 for beer and turned around and sold it for $17,700. How in the world is that possible? How do you lose money on beer, mop the floor with it? Was there a fire and somebody grabbed the wrong hose?

Benita Hunter, my eighth grade English teacher, taught us never to write an editorial unless you were to offer a solution, and of course I am.

Now I could suggest that the Clear Spring American Legion (and as I said, keep in mind while you're reading this that Clear Spring is one of the more conscientious clubs in the county) do something wild and horribly impractical, such as charge the same price for beer that all the private, free-enterprise, tax-paying bar and restaurant owners in Washington County have to charge to make a living.

But we wouldn't want to strain them.

No, my solution is much simpler, and involves having the bartenders make the foam on each beer an extra quarter inch in height. I say this because I used to work in a bar and the owner would yell at me if the head were less than a full inch and a quarter high, because he said I was costing him money.

Now based on a conversion of 2.3 cents a fluid ounce extrapolated over the cost of a 16.6-gallon half-keg and factored into $19,000 representing 76,000 beers served in 12-ounce glasses with a diameter at the mouth of 3.25 inches tapering to 2.75 inches at the base, my calculations show, that over the course of a year an extra quarter inch of foam in place of fluid would save Clear Spring American Legion $1,778 and put the beer ledger back in the black.

Thus unencumbered by beer losses, the club could use its entire $100,000 in gambling profits to send deserving kids to college - as it tells the Gaming Commission it is so interested in doing.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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