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Ask a Legislator – The Beer Edition

Completely by chance, a state lawmaker here in Pennsylvania had a tele-townhall tonight. We got a call and I opted to listen in even though I was on the cell with Sebastian as he was driving home. I asked Sebastian if he had suggestions for me for our representative. There’s not much going on at the state level in regards to guns, so I suggested possibly something about reform of the beer/wine/liquor sales given today’s news.

In getting the queue, they only ask for the general nature of your question. I gave an overview and said I would simply like to ask if there is any real chance of legislative relief of any kind. I pointed out that if you’ve ever tried to buy just enough beer for a small cookout or perhaps a bottle of wine, it’s a real pain under the system. When the staffer chuckles and agrees, you know that’s generally a good sign.

Of course, as Sebastian says, “Everyone hates it, but no one is willing to get angry enough to do anything about it.” I figured with the Supreme Court case as cover, there was a door open to get the conversation started about a legislative remedy.

Unfortunately, there were too many questions and mine didn’t make it to the rep during the course of the call. However, he did pledge that anyone with a policy question will get a personal phone call back from him this week.

Given that, what proposals should I lay out as reasonable reforms to make. I know I’d ideally like a completely free market system on sales, but I realize that when dealing with a massive monopoly force (the beer distributors) and a government patronage service (the state liquor stores), it won’t be a realistic solution. So, what kind of system would you suggest for Pennsylvania’s sales of beer and wine, and possibly of liquor? I’m particularly interested in hearing from other Pennsylvania residents. What kind of compromise reform would you be happy with as a starting point?

9 Responses to “Ask a Legislator – The Beer Edition”

  1. mac says:

    I’m a former PA resident. I’d suggest loosening the licensing restrictions so that liquor licenses in an area can reflect current demographics, rather than what they were decades ago. Another suggestion might be to allow liquor under say, 20% alcohol, to be sold in grocery stores and the like. That would put PA closer to what OH was 20 years ago, not that emulating OH is exactly an inspiring goal.

    It’s funny. Every time I saw this come up in PA politics, one justification for the restrictions was to cut back on alcoholism. I found it ironic that forcing people to buy beer by the case (unless you want to pay bar prices for a six-pack!) was somehow going to cut back on alcoholism.

  2. Alcohol Activist says:

    There can be no compromise when it comes to your alcohol rights. Why get down on your knees and beg masser, please, please let the supermarkets sell me a little beer. This is a sell out. This is now how free men and women should behave. The state legislators serve us, not the other way around. Until I am permitted to buy a bottle of whiskey at the convenience store across from the State Capitol, and freely drink my bottle unmolested on the capitol steps, we are merely subjects, not citizens.

    You are clearly a sell out to the cause of inebriation, and not a real activist. We, those of us who refuse to compromise, and demand all our alcohol rights now are the ones truly fighting for freedom. Take your compromise, sell out proposals, and kindly shove them. Let real activists do the work! Sure, you’ll accuse us of pissing in the wind (something the alcohol makes us have to do a lot), but you’re the ones who have allowed the nanny staters to take our rights piecemeal, through your endless compromises.

    Stand up for freedom! Stand up for intoxication! Alcohol rights now!

  3. kaveman says:

    Well, call me simple minded but, how aboout letting people walk into a convienience store or liquor store and buy all the damn booze they want.

    I honestly had no idea PA had these restrictive laws.

    What problems are they suppose to solve?

    • Bitter says:

      They are absolutely terrible laws. But, again, I’d like to mention ideas for serious potential reforms that might be able to survive a fight with a beer distribution monopoly, restricted licenses, and state employee union (or at least “organization” even if they aren’t in a union, I can’t remember off the top of my head if they are formally unionized) for those who work the liquor/wine stores. To top it off, there’s not a group here who is specifically standing up for these issues. So it’s got to be something that has a snowball’s chance of even being introduced with no lobby to support it other than customers who hate the system, but not enough to do a damn thing about it. As you can see, it’s beyond an uphill battle. But there’s a chance to open the door for the conversation to begin.

  4. I don’t know that everyone has the cookout problem. Because anyone that lives close to the border just crosses the state line to get their booze. I grew up in Delaware County and we never bothered with the beer distributors or the state stores. We went into Delaware and bought booze in a state that didn’t have totally screwed up liquor laws. Delaware has a standard licensing scheme for private stores so has better selection, prices, and service than the PA state stores anyway.

  5. countertop says:

    Well, why not allow folks with “beer distributorships” to sell less than a case??

  6. Link P says:

    As a former PA resident, Countertop’s suggestion was the first thing I thought of.

    I remember hitting the beer distributor many years ago with a school friend who had been going to college in Ohio. When my friend set the 12 pack of Rolling Rock on the checkout counter, the clerk said, “Very funny. Where’s the rest of the case?”

    My friend replied that we just wanted the twelve pack. He had been exposed to more sensible alcohol sales practices for so long that he had forgotten about PA’s “by the case” rule.

    Mac is dead on with the irrationality of the “prevents alcoholism” argument. After having lived in Idaho (where beer is sold in grocery stores in everything from singles to kegs), I realized that PA six-pack take-out at the bar came with twelve pack pricing.

  7. There are no state stores in Indiana. Anyone with a liquor license can sell booze (except on Sunday, although if you also sell so much food, you can sell on Sundays). Back in Bloomington, one of the best liquor selections in town was Sam’s Club. Beer and wine you can buy in any grocery store.

    I don’t see how allowing Wegman’s to sell beer is much of an improvement. If you’re throwing a party and need beer, wine, and spirits, you still have to go to two different stores, and the pricing controls make alcohol ridiculously expensive (the same can be said for dairy).

  8. PavelRicardo says:

    As a resident of Wisconsin, the state with the highest beer consumption per capita, I would like to state that preposterous laws abound here as well. After 9 PM, alcohol can only be sold in bars. This is, of course, to make sure that imbibers must later drive drunk, so that the police can increase state revenues with high-ticket arrests. The even more ludicrous state of affairs is that stores set their clocks to run slightly early, so that they have an extra five-minute cushion of refusal, thus precluding any possibility of getting nailed for a “9:01PM” sale.

    And speaking of dairy, rightwingprof, can you imagine the pressure put on Wisconsin dairy farmers by the fact that dairy subsidies increase by distance from Wisconsin and that California is way the heck far away?

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