Le Bok Fin’s Textbook Bonfire Draws Mixed Reactions

By: Glen Jessie

Already notorious South Philadelphia summer pop-up beer garden Le Bok Fin added to the controversy on Thursday when it announced an end-of-summer bonfire that will use old public school textbooks.

The bonfire, which will take place on Saturday, September 18 outside of the now-abandoned Edward W. Bok Vocational School, will run exclusively using textbooks formerly used by students of the school.

Le Bok Fin, which opened on August 7, 2015, has been seen by some as symbolic of the lingering racial disparities in Philadelphia. The school was largely attended by local minorities, whereas the beer garden is frequented by mostly young white professionals.

“We understand the optics may trouble some – but it just doesn’t make sense for us to go through the trouble of buying firewood when there are perfectly good textbooks in the ghostly abandoned school below us,” said new property owner Lindsey Scannapieco.

Local nonprofit Philadelphia Jobs With Justice cried foul, arguing that the bonfire is “intentionally dangling economic failures above the poor community that is still suffering through them.”

“Replacing a school with an expensive pop-up beer garden is bad enough – but this is overwhelmingly cruel,” the group said in a statement.

“We’re actually doing the local community a favor. Those books are a fire hazard,” Scannapieco retorted.

But like all pop-ups comes a time to pack up.  However, while the South Philadelphia beer garden ends this chapter, a new one begins.

Le Bok Fin’s startling economic success in its short period of operation has allowed Scannapieco to invest and expand to a permanent location at what is now Broad Street Ministries. BSM has been experiencing financial burdens since February of this year. Karen Carter, BSM volunteer, expressed her sincerest appreciation for Le Bok Fin, “We can’t thank this new establishment enough for their generous offer. We can now at least leave in peace.”

Scannapieco has offered to pay more than the asking price, which was left unpublicized so BSM could settle a fair deal without the media’s attention. After settlement, Scannapieco alluded to exciting plans to cover the southern wall of former BSM with a mural dedicated to Kurt Vile.

But while we know what the future holds for Le Bok Fin, how have the neighbors from its former residence been fairing as it comes to an end?

The East Passyunk Crossing and Wharton neighborhoods have experienced a sudden increase in gentrification after Le Bok Fin spurred surrounding property values over its 5-week run. We asked nearby residents of the original 9th and Mifflin pop-up location how the beer garden has affected the neighborhood since it began. Local tenant Jamar Louis was extremely upset: “It’s disgusting! My rent went from $300 a month to $1,500 from White millenials purchasing Hoegaardens.”  Louis has since been forced to relocate elsewhere.

Le Bok Fin’s South Philly Bonfire Good Bye will begin this Saturday at 2pm and end at 11pm with happy hour specials running from 2pm – 6pm.