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The big new controversy, or is the same old controversy, of the year is the rumors that the PLCB’s will be ended when Governor-Elect Tom Corbett takes office.  As more and more people get frustrated with the laws and restrictions associated, privatization of liquor stores seems like an increasingly popular option to give Corbett a quick “win” to start his term.  With such a contentious issue, there are many sides to consider, which may be why this issue has failed three times in the rather immediate past.

Taxes: To help with a $5 billion PA defiicit, selling 620 stores can easily generate $2 billion, a move much needed when Corbett has promised to neither raise taxes on the citizens nor tax Marcellus Shale businesses.  While a good short term decision, it is important to decide how many taxes are too many to keep the current revenue the PLCB brings in if stores are privatized.

Drunk Driving/Underage Drinking: The PLCB currently has its own policing system to deal with these issues and can point to the low underage drinking numbers of Pennsylvania as evidence.  Removing this force may or may not give local police more responsibility and may or may not lead to increases in both problems, but it will certainly enrage such groups as MADD which could be formidable opponents to Corbett’s gubernatorial service.

Jobs: Privatization will result in a rather immediate loss of approximately 5,000 jobs for those working in PLCB stores, most of whom are part of the state-wide union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776.  Some discussion has ensued regarding the requirement of hiring the same people for positions in new stores.  This requirement seems fraught with problems, especially when considering smaller businesses.

No More Kiosks: Really, that’s my own issue, but I’ll be glad if they’re gone since they cost the state a bundle and are already down for maintenance like not giving customers their wine. Genius.

In the current plan, the PLCB would still exist, the number of stores sold is up for discussion, additional stores would likely result, and it is likely that jobs would increase.

I generally try to remain open minded in this blog. Generally. I understand that taxes are important to operating a government and that the PLCB isn’t just one giant waste of time. They are very supportive of local wine, beer and liquor companies, for example.

New fee increases in liquor handling and storage by the PLCB, however, tend to rate high on my “completely ridiculous” scale. Fees will increase by $0.50 to $2 per bottle in January with increases continuing annually. They pretend that this is not just a new tax. Instead, they state: “Any business has to look at their costs on a yearly basis. We have not done that for 17 years and we have decided that we have to do that.”

Since when is a monopoly run by the state a business? If PA citizens had other choices and other companies to go through, then the PLCB could argue about being a business. A failing one. Shareholder seem to have no say in whether or not the PLCB’s strategies are the correct ones and the PLCB is therefore not held accountable to its customers.

With already sky high taxes on wine and liquor, restaurants, bars and the everyday consumer will soon have an additional $1-$3 per bottle to look forward to paying.

I’ve decided to ignore the fact that I didn’t post for 2+ months and get straight to the meat of it. Kiosks Fail.

From KYW newsradio 1060

Alright, maybe not fail, but it seems everyone in America and beyond is confused by them.

Despite this, the PLCB has declared the testing phase of a few weeks a success and will continue installing the kiosks in stores throughout the state. According to PLCB chief executive Joe Conti, “sales at the two sites have been 20 to 30 percent higher than anticipated, a total of more than 3,300 bottles since June 21″ from the two existing kiosks. This success will most likely result in 98 more kiosks being approved in the next couple weeks.

The only problems they have seen include door seal stickiness and power surges causing outages. Each kiosk costs about $100,000 which is paid through a $1 surcharge per transaction (cause we need our alcohol taxed even more) and advertisements.

Interesting stuff which fails to include such statements from people like Rick Hauck in Harrisburg: “It’s not very welcoming,” he says of the kiosks. “When I go to a liquor store, I can pick up the wine and see the label. It’s not as accessible in a vending-machine.” Or, my favorite from Keith Wallace, president and founder of The Wine School of Philadelphia, that the machines treat customers like “conniving underaged drunks.”

And here’s just an article about the PLCB I like, not just because I like Bill Toland.

You know its time to write a post when your spam filter has more comments then your actual posts.

Rather then being at the Philly Beer Festival (sad), I will be going next week to the World Cup in South Africa, which just means I’m an even worse blogger (but, frankly, a way cooler person). To make up for it? Quick discussion on two things. Feel free to chime in!

First, the debate over allowing beer distributors to sell 6-packs rages on. This is one of those laws I have never understood. If you create a business plan purely for selling beer, why not allow the sale of six packs? I understand that some restaurants have built up a business around this, but they can continue selling individual bottles into a mixed six-pack while a distributor makes life a bit more convenient. Additionally, much of the opposition to allowing beer in grocery stores and gas stations is distributors feeling threatened. Allowing them to sell six-packs would make everyone happy.

And my second rambling is about beer sales decreases this year. The expectation was a rise in sales, and it seem the only increase in sales has been in the craft brewing and really cheap beer, like your favorite Natty Light. Your typical light beers, like Bud Light, has decreased while the baby boomers decrease their consumption of beer as they get older.

You may have noticed the “craft-style” beer big companies are coming up with like Bud Light Golden Wheat or low calorie beers to sway the younger generation to buy more of their beer. Expect to see more (lucky us).

Sheetz “wins” the beer battle. Sheetz added enough of a restaurant section in one of its stores in Altoona that it can now sell beer. Some people think its a step in the right direction, I think its a way to get cheap beer late at night. Either way, I guess one step at a time, every gas station will get a restaurant and a beer license. I guess I’d be happier if I thought there’d be good beer being sold there. Maybe its time we focus on more important policy issues?

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