Mass Protests: Group Pushes for Limit on Oktoberfest Beer Price

Anyone who has ever been to Munich's Oktoberfest probably can't remember what they paid for beer. But one German association has had enough of paying through the nose for booze. Now it is gathering signatures to launch a referendum on the maximum price of beer at the famous Bavarian festival.

The price of a liter of beer at Oktoberfest is quickly approaching €10 ($12.50). Zoom
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The price of a liter of beer at Oktoberfest is quickly approaching €10 ($12.50).

A German association that fights against deceptive pouring practices is unhappy about the price of beer at Oktoberfest, the annual 16-day festival held in Munich. Now it plans to petition to have a referendum held on the maximum price of beer -- served in traditional liter-sized (34-liquid-ounce) mugs or glasses known as a Mass -- at the festival.

"We're aiming for a maximum price limit of €7.10 ($9) per liter for all beverages," says Jans-Ulrich Bittlinger, the association's president. The petition also calls for setting a limit on how much the price can be increased each year: 15 cents on the first day of September each year.

The association intends to launch its campaign on September 22, the same day this year's Oktoberfest will kick off. The goal is to collect between 30,000 and 40,000 signatures, or enough to trigger an official referendum on the issue, and thereby put pressure on politicians before Munich's mayor elections in 2014. "For the City of Munich, it is entirely possible to set this kind of upper limit," says Bittlinger, whose association represents 4,000 members.

Populist Move?

A spokesman for the city has voiced opposition to the referendum effort. He said that the event's hosts are solely responsible for setting beer prices and that city administrators have no influence on them. He added, however, that the city would surely intervene if there was any price-fixing involved.

Toni Roiderer, the spokesman for the Oktoberfest beer tents, scoffed at the referendum plan. "Why do these people demand a price limit of €7.10?" he asks. "Why don't they just demand free beer for everyone at Oktoberfest?" Roiderer dismissed the association's effort as nothing but "pure populism." He argues that vendors must invest millions to operate a tent at Oktoberfest and that the only way to recuperate their expenses is if they "are able to achieve high revenues."

The price for a liter of beer at Oktoberfest is currently approaching the €10 mark. Visitors to this year's festival should expect to pay between €9.10 and €9.50 for a liter of beer.

Oktoberfest is the world's largest fair. Some 6.9 million people attended it in 2011, and some 6.5 million guests are expected to attend it this year. The 179th Oktoberfest will be held between Sept. 22 and Oct. 7.

-- with wire services

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