Free Beer! Free Our Beer!

There are multiple fronts in the war on free beer in Pennsylvania – free beer in the liberty sense, not in the free sample sense.

First, the issue of grocery stores selling beer was heard in the Supreme Court yesterday. See, grocery stores are banned from selling beer in Pennsylvania. We’re only allowed to buy beer in bars/cafes no more than 2 six-packs at a time or from distributers who can only sell massive freakin’ boxes of the stuff. It’s for the children – and to prevent alcoholism. I’m not sure how forcing people to walk into a bar or buying in bulk reduces alcoholism rates, but it’s a case that has been made by proponents of the current system. But then Glorious Wegmans got all uppity on the distributers. They realized that each of their grocery stores has a cafe. Food and beverages are sold for on-site consumption in one corner of their store, and Wegmans decided they would be happy to allow beer to be consumed as well. No reason you can’t enjoy a good beer with your pizza, right? In order to comply with state bureaucrats, Wegmans put up fences and gates around the new beer sections, and all purchases must be made at special registers, separately from the rest of your groceries.

The Wegmans system is by no means convenient for beer lovers, it’s just one less trip in the car. If you don’t visit the store in the right order, you still have to make multiple trips into the store through special doors. It is stupid, but at least it reduces our carbon footprint or something. But the beer distributers demand higher carbon footprints and mandatory bulk sales or skeezy bar visits for all! And so the Supreme Court will decide we lowly taxpayers can be trusted to buy our beer in a building with unprepared food. John Micek reports that there is no anticipated date for a decision and encourages folks to drink up while they can.

In other news, a hearing on the overzealous “unregistered” beer raids was held this week with some surprising and not-so-surprising results. Because bureaucrats don’t have to pass any sort of literacy test, they actually stole a bunch of beer that was perfectly legal and registered. But there were some bottles which were non registered, so the whole fiasco hasn’t gone away. Oh, and not to mention it involved the state police who were fully armed and acting like it was a drug raid.

Philly Republican Rep. John Taylor went further.

While questioning [State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement chief Major John] Lutz, Taylor expressed support for the state police but said, “In this one you and your unit were wrong . . . they knew when they were going in there they did not need four armed agents. A teenager with a clipboard could have done what they did.”

Taylor called the bust “an over-use of force,” and said, regarding priorities, that “those of us from Philadelphia have plenty [other things] for you to do.”

Lutz shot back that there was unregistered beer.

“So what! So what!” shouted Taylor. “Use a clerk to do that!

I say cut his funding. If he has fully armed cops to spare for a job that could take a recent college grad with no training and a clipboard (who would probably do a better job of identifying beer anyway), then it’s time to start making cuts.

Also interesting is the fact that they were actually questioned as to why state police stole lawful beer from the bars before actually checking to see if it is registered.

Sen. John Pippy, R-Allegheny County, asked why they’d seized brew before confirming it’s unregistered?

“Historically, the beer was always seized,” answered Lutz.

Yeah, or un-kegged with axes.

Got that? They can steal your car before they actually make an effort to find out if you really bought it. And if they screw it up, too bad. It’s on your dime.

Unfortunately, lawmakers being what they are, their solution to avoid this in the future is more regulation. They want breweries (who are supposed to register the beer) to start putting special barcodes on all beer so that they can send in a kid with a scanner who doesn’t have to think to check on beer registration status. For the big breweries, they will wholeheartedly endorse it. They can afford to make the changes without a huge hit to the bottom line. Smaller breweries, not so much.

It’s time to dismantle the entire system. No more regulatory capture, no more favors for unions, no more creating monopoly industries, no more.

10 thoughts on “Free Beer! Free Our Beer!”

  1. “It’s time to dismantle the entire system. No more regulatory capture, no more favors for unions, no more creating monopoly industries, no more.”

    Good luck with that….

    1. I know. I’m on some lists that are trying to get things fixed a little at a time. I’m on board with that approach, and I’d like to see more groups attacking little parts of the system so that overall, it could be brought down. I’m a realist in that it’s not going to happen. I’m also a realist with the luxury of living near New Jersey where I can go get all of the free beer I want.

  2. I will enjoy being on the more-free side of the Delaware River for a change; where I can buy a six-pack in almost any grocery store, and the restaurants have decent-priced wine.

    That having been said, I would trade that in a heartbeat for your gun laws. But, then, I don’t drink much…

  3. “Bitter Pennsylvanian clinging to his Bible and Gun in one hand, and a Beer in another!”

    PS – Having moved to PA from New England, I can attest that Pennsylvania has some of the least bitter people in the entire northeast.

    Yes folks, our beloved President Obama is merely a bigoted arse on this one.

  4. It’s all about patronage. These elected officials get millions of donations to their campaigns from the multi level patronage system they invented.
    It would be harder to get money if we laid off all those State employees, who often work the polls on their election day off. Acme, Giant and huge companies are more apt to make a general election campaign donation than a personal maxed donation.

    It’s a huge bureaucratic scam to keep cash in the powerful chosen elected officials.

  5. I was going to go on a beer raid last week, but it was after midnight and so I had to settle for finishing an open bottle of wine instead.

  6. As I remarked on your blog, there is no need for a “special” barcode other than to collect new fees: the regular barcode is registered already, if a product carries one. And they are quite specific: the barcode for cola sold in my area can be used to determine which plant bottled/canned the drink (used by the State that has a “returnable” deposit to be sure you are not returning a can from the plant ten miles away in another State).

    Grocery stores here are not supposed to sell beer or any other alcoholic beverage, though some very rural mom-and-pop general stores did last time I saw them – but that was almost twenty years ago. Nor can bars, for taking off-premises. But while regulated, the liquor stores are privately owned and operated. The point of beer-at-supermarket comes up once in a while, and next time you are at the grocery/supermarket you might see if the cooking section has extra security – check the label on vanilla, which supposedly gets shoplifted a lot…

    1. Which is exactly why the cops are busting down our door to break our homebrewing materials. While I bitch about the government monopoly and regulatory capture, using the prohibition language only turns off potential allies because wine, liquor, and beer are still widely available. It’s not as a free a market as it should be, but trying to convince people that this is on par with prohibition won’t win people to the cause.

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