We’re the Byzantium of Beer

Hat tip to Capitol Ideas for pointing out a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling today that is a window into our state’s ridiculous liquor control laws.  Beer in Pennsylvania is restricted to retail sale only by distributors, which means if you want something less than a case, which is usually the case for me, you need to find an establishment with take out, were you can buy up to two six packs.  The type of licensee that’s allowed to sell beer for take out are typically licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on-premises.

It’s not uncommon in the Keystone State for stores to be set up, which technically serve some food.  The local one near me makes rather lousy cheesesteaks, for instance, which you can, if you want, eat in the two or three booths they have (state law says you have to be able to seat up to 30).  But the store is basically a take out beer store.  The food is just a way to comply with the licensing requirements.

Apparently Sheetz, which is the “rest of Pennsylvania” version of Wawa, applied for what is essentially a restaurant liquor license, to sell beer in one of its stores for take out.  But in the Sheetz scheme, you couldn’t consume it there, you had to take it out of the store.  The evil villains in this whole sorry story, the The Malt Beverages Distributors Association of Pennsylvania, who jealously guard their state sanctioned monopoly, intervened in the case after the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board agreed to allow the transfer of the license.

Note I said transfer.  You see, Pennsylvania fixes the number of licenses available, so if you want one, you have to “transfer” a liquor license from an establishment that’s going under, or has lost or surrendered it’s license to sell alcohol.  They won’t issue you a new one.

But moving back to the original topic, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed, if you’re seeking a license to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption, then you better allow the beer to be consumed on-premises.  As Capitol Ideas said:

We have said it before, and we will say it again, this ruling strikes us as massively counterintuitive. Because, instead of allowing people to buy take-away beer, the high court is effectively requiring people to buy their suds at the gas station, guzzle it there, and then get back behind the wheel and (in some cases) drive on interstate highways. But we’re not legal scholars or anything.

I think as a matter of law, the court made the right decision.  The problem is that the law is wrong.  You can’t blame the courts because the legislature passes things that are counterintuitive and stupid.  As a Pennsylvanian, I’m tired of being forced to buy beer by the case, or have to find a bar or restaurant with take out, and more often than not very poor selection.

14 thoughts on “We’re the Byzantium of Beer”

  1. And yet my guns are the problem. It couldn’t be something else, like the product of a legislative SNAFU.

    Of course, you could always disarm and buy beer in Jersey! Or home brew.

  2. *shrugs* There is a difference between being able to consume on the property and being required to consume on the property. I mean, we can take the silliness even further. By not allowing you to drink on the property Sheetz is forcing people to consume the beer while they were driving.

    I mean, I’m not a legal scholar or anything…

  3. Is there a state with more screwed up liquor laws than PA? After living in Massachusetts it even makes their laws look sane.

  4. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in Philly, but doesn’t it have some rather unique and interesting beer halls? I seem to remember at least two near Rittenhouse. Yeungling, which is the oldest brewery in the US, is also in PA. And let’s not forget one of the best blue-collar micro breweries, Victory Brewing.

    So even with the screwed up laws, PA does have some good choices.

    And those “take-out” alcohol places are expensive. I use to regularly by Victory in Virginia and take it up to Philly when I was doing the commute.

  5. And those “take-out” alcohol places are expensive.

    Not all the sub & six type places are pricey, but you have to know which ones to go to, some are pretty steep. Our liquor laws do suck ass though.

  6. And here I thought Illinois was screwed up.

    There are places I can buy take home beer by the bottle.

    One of the very few cool things we have in my neck of the woods is an excellent brewpub where you can get take home 64oz growlers.

  7. I’m a bit late to the party here, but I thought I’d suggest an awesome bottle shop. Check out Capone’s Restaurant in Norristown. They have pretty typical good bar food, 16 taps of various hard to find stuff, and a bottle shop in the back with one of the best selections I’ve seen anywhere.

  8. PA has the most ridiculous and draconian alcohol regs ever — and I’ve lived in something like 30 states. It’s a bit better where I live now — within walking distance of Victory Brewing, and around the corner from three of the meanest biker bars/takeout package stores. plus, the local Wegmans just got permission to sell beer..

    Still. I miss FL, where there were drive-through beer distributors.

  9. PA has drive through beer distributors too. I remember going to one with my grandfather to pick up beer for a family picnic, though that was a decade or two ago. A quick google suggests some are still around.

  10. Bound Beverages in Bensalem, PA is probably one of the oldest drive-thru distributors in the state.
    Good prices, with an almost ridiculously large selection.

  11. […] We talk over whiskey and fight over water […]

    In the PRC we don’t sell beer between 0200 and 0600. Other than that you can get booze almost anywhere and most any time.

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