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Beer Sellers Try to Make Buying Beer Harder

For those of you who have the luxury of living in what we refer to as Free America (aka places like New Jersey), you may not realize that our state governments wants to help us control our intake of alcohol. For that reason, we have beer laws that forbid us from buying more than 2 packs at a time – unless that is, you go to a distributor, in which case you’re buying a case at a time. We are also only allowed to buy beer from bars, restaurants, and distributors. Many bars have a “take out” section where you can grab a six pack to take home with you.

Wegmans, the most fabulous grocery store in the world, realized that with cafes in each of their Pennsylvania locations, they could qualify as a restaurant-type establishment for a license to sell beer. Under the law, the PLCB recognized that they did indeed qualify and granted them licenses to sell beer. For the consumer, it’s still not as easy as picking up a pie at Wegmans. See, the beer can’t be sold with your groceries. You have to buy it in a closed off area of the store at separate registers. The only thing it makes any easier is that I don’t technically have to drive anywhere else. It still requires two trips to/from the car and two different transactions. They also don’t have the world’s best selection, though it is certainly better than most takeouts near us.

Other beer sellers got jealous and sued.

The Malt Beverage Distributors Association, which represents 450 beer distributors across the state, had challenged Wegmans’ license on a number of grounds.

The group says letting Wegmans sell beer would allow other supermarkets and big retailers to horn in on the beer-selling trade by establishing their own eating areas and applying for licenses to serve beer and sell six-packs.

That, the association warned, could put beer distributorships – many of them small mom-and-pop operations – out of business.

More from the distributor lobby:

Robert Hoffman, the attorney for the distributors, said the ruling puts them at a competitive disadvantage because supermarkets can offer “a zillion things to get you in the door.”

Hear that sound, Hoffman? That’s the world’s smallest violin.

How dare we consumers not be forced by the legislature and courts to buy from the companies who pay his salary! How dare competitors be allowed to offer more and different products! Boo freakin’ hoo, Hoffman. As a consumer, I think I’ll swing by Wegmans this weekend and pick up a six pack or two, grab a bite from their cafe, and knock my grocery shopping out for the week. Next week, I will also get in touch with my local lawmakers and ask them to ignore your lobby because as voters, we want more choice. Hell, maybe I’ll ask them to just consider disbanding the entire freakin’ system so we can buy as much or as little beer as we want at any damn store we want.

24 Responses to “Beer Sellers Try to Make Buying Beer Harder”

  1. twoeggsup says:

    Where I agree that it would be great to have beer, wine & liquor in supermarkets & convenience stores… It’s not a clear two way street. Beer Dist’s in PA can’t sell liquor of wine. They paid a lot of money for their licenses that they bought to keep the State happy.

    Don’t get too happy about beer in supermarkets though. Having spent two miserable years living in Wisconsin where liquor, beer and wine can be sold just about anywhere, and is… (no state stores) at supermarkets and convenience stores the selection really sucks. No one location sells enough to stock a broad selection.

    Places like the Circle Liquor store are few and far between.

  2. Bitter says:

    Supermarkets can’t sell liquor or wine, either. That doesn’t pose a competition problem for beer distributors. No private entity can here in Pennsylvania. Even restaurants are only allowed to buy from the state.

    There’s not a reason in the world that a quality beer distributor who offers selection, decent prices, and exceptional knowledge of their product can’t compete with a grocery store. Of course, if we just privatized the entire system, opened it up to anyone to get a license to sell alcohol, and allowed the market to really work, those distributors could focus on being a quality alcohol store, something that can definitely compete with grocery stores.

  3. DirtCrashr says:

    I buy beer by the case at Costco and wine at Safeway in the wine-section of the supermarket. They have some very good discounts – but California is a wine-surplus state. A Monterey County chardonnay like Clos La Chance is just $7.99 (down from a Reg. Price of $16.99) and a 12-pack of Kona Longboard Lager is $14.99 (down from $17.99) – but I can get a case of that at Costco for $22.99 when it’s in season (summer).
    I really don’t get how a State can attempt to regulate beer, wine, and alcohol, and as in the case of Washington, lose money at it – it’s just stupidly insane and a perfect example of Government being a bloated, wasteful, useless appendage that has no business doing certain things and really ought to get out of it entirely and just go away.

  4. Jeff says:

    Are beer/wine restaurant licenses much looser than full alcohol licenses? When I lived in PA, the heavily restricted supply of liquor licenses drove the cost up so high that there’s no way a small beer section at a supermarket would be profitable.

  5. Bitter says:

    The restaurant license restrictions are effectively gone. I’d have to go look it up to see exactly what changed, but for all intents and purposes, there isn’t the same stranglehold on the market that Sebastian said used to exist. The rise of casual dining forced that change.

  6. Bombloader says:

    Here in ID you can buy beer and wine at the grocery store. We still have an annoying state monopoly on hard liquor though. However, we also have a few small shops that specialize in beer. Mostly they compete with supermarkets by selling hard to find imports and microbrews, and also selling homebrewing supplies.

  7. twoeggsup says:

    Many people, including our new incoming Governor in PA believe that privitization will make everything better in PA when the State Stores are sold/ Privitized.

    However in our case, the higher prices aren’t for a lack of competition but the result of the HIGH state taxes that ignored will still be there after the state stores are sold off to private intrests.

    As usual, it’s taxes, taxes, taxes….

    • Bitter says:

      Privatization will make many things better. The prices will still be high due to taxes, but we can deal with that issue once the sale of liquor & wine is out of the hands of bureaucrats. You will have market competition on prices, but I think the best thing for consumers will be the competition on quality and selection. And I would argue that privatization needs to be complete, not just at the retail level. If bureaucrats are still selecting a limited wine & liquor list for the new private stores to order from at the wholesale level, we haven’t won any serious benefits.

      That said, Jersey still ain’t far from us. :)

  8. Mobo says:

    …..sort of off subject, but I think that anybody with a car should be able to make a few extra bucks as a taxi service if they so choose. “Legit” taxi companies don’t serve my area of Philadelphia, and it would be nice to know that I can get a ride home from the bar, rather than drink cranberry juice or risk a DUI.

  9. scott says:

    In Georgia we can buy plenty of beer and wine in the grocery stores and liquor can easily be found in privately owned shops.

  10. Ian Argent says:

    So we can have a bi-state freedom get together. I’ll bring the booze, you bring the guns!

  11. DirtCrashr says:

    If the prices go down will the taxes also decrease? :-) Are they tied together one as a percentage of the other, or is it a flat-rate thing like a recycling-bottle?

  12. joated says:

    I’m with Bitter on the privatization of PA beer, wine and liquor stores. Moving to north central PA from New Jersey four years ago, I was shocked at the lack of variety and selection in the local liquor/wine shop and the necessity of having to go to a separate location to buy a minimum of a case of beer. Even there, the selection of beers was minimal. Get rid of the bureaucrats.

    Thank goodness Corning, NY and the Finger Lakes are just an hour north of here.

  13. Wegman’s has one of the best selections of beer in PA. (Microbrews, Belgiums, and more).

    Where as at the beer and keg selection can range from good to lousy. So no difference in the selection.

    The issues I have are the following:

    a) There is a list of allowed beers in PA. And some of my favorites are not on it.

    b) It is technically illegal to bring beer across the border, but God help us all if I’m ever stopped. Because if an officer gives that as a reason. I am rolling up my window and driving off.They clearly have some real criminals in Philly to catch. I find beer a fundamental aspect of liberty.

    c) I can’t afford to spend $250 on a case of my favorite beer.

    d) I don’t give a crap if the business’ paid a license or are mom’n’pop.

    e) Beer distributors are stupid. They should simply lobby to be able to distribute 6-packs and singles as well. I’d rather go to a beer distributor with great selection near my house than drive 45 minutes to a grocery store that offers beer.

    —-

    Then we have alcohol and liquor reform to work on. I saw an article talking about how the state liquor made over $100 million last year.

    WTF…really?

    For the entire state of Pennsylvania, they only brought in a $100 million. To me that seems like a very low figure….but maybe that’s because so many of us buy out of state and “smuggle” it in.

    Can we say CORRUPTION

  14. Bitter says:

    NUGUN, you never have to worry about any enforcement of individual buyers/drinkers bringing alcohol across the border. The second that happens, headlines will be written that will lead to the immediate dismantling of the state liquor system. So, ironically, the incentive for the state is to just turn their heads the other way when it comes to people who are breaking the law.

  15. Jujube says:

    Alaska has liberal gun laws and extremely tough liquor laws, tougher than Pennsylvania’s. In some areas, liquor is outlawed and it’s a crime simply to have it.

    That’s just food for thought.

  16. Jujube says:

    Geez… After reading the comments, in the “free states” of New York and California, you can buy liquor (all varieties) everywhere and all over — supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants — you name it.

    Guns are harder to get but liquor is everywhere.

  17. Ian Argent says:

    @Bitter: Incidentally giving the powers that be a convenient handle on being able to use “prosecutorial discretion” on people they can’t get any other way…

    If a law cannot work if everyone breaking it isn’t arrested, charged, and convicted, it is a bad law. I suppose that’s as good an argument against prohibition as any

  18. Sebastian said:
    “For those of you who have the luxury of living in what we refer to as Free America (aka places like New Jersey)…”

    Jujube said:
    “Guns are harder to get but liquor is everywhere.”

    Take a look at many social democracies in Europe and you’ll find the same thing. Keep the little people in a drunken stupor and they’ll be too busy drinking and recovering from hangovers to actually realize that they’re being trampled on by the social elite, and won’t care to fight for their rights.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the system in PA stinks, and beer/liquor sales should be sold in a free market way as opposed to what we have now, which is straight-up strict government control. However, I wouldn’t characterize places like NJ as “Free America” simply because of the beer/liquor regulation issuee.

  19. Bitter says:

    Do you have a stick up your ass about Sebastian right now? I can’t figure out why else you would take a joke about “Free America” made by me just to attack him.

  20. Woah.

    First off, Bitter, my mistake on the quote, I didn’t realize it was your post.

    Second, I didn’t realize it was a joke; no smileys, no quote marks, no (TM) or anything of the like to indicate in text that it was. It seemed a mischaracterization, nothing more. I guess I don’t have as much a sense of humor as I’d like, and I’ve been known to take such things too serious at times.

    Third, I’m in agreement with you on the issue, and even said so in my comments; I just didn’t think, assuming it wasn’t a joke, it should taken to that length to characterize the state as such. If I have a “stick up my ass” about anything (which I don’t), it’s NJ, not Sebastian, or you for that matter. I lived in NJ much of my life, and wasn’t a fan of it in my last years there.

    Given that my intentions were not of a trolling nature, I apologize if they came off as such.

    With that said, I don’t appreciate your comments. It’s “your house” here, and I recognize you can do as you please, but I have always tried to be civil when I comment, and debate the issues and the comments, as opposed to personally attacking the people involved.

    Take it FWIW.

  21. Bitter says:

    It’s perfectly reasonable to assume you have something chapping your ass when you start attributing jokes to someone else for no other purpose than to attack. If you plan to attack, be prepared when someone shoots those pesky things we call facts back in your face.

    As for the lack of a smiley face to indicate every instance of humor and/or sarcasm, well, the average reader can tell the difference without having it spelled out for them. Especially when this is an issue we have been complaining and joking about for years.

  22. My apologies, but politely saying, “I wouldn’t characterize places like NJ as “Free America” is far from an attack, regardless of who I believed said it.

    I never had the intent to take this conversation off-track; if you’d like to discuss this issue privately, feel free to contact me via PAFOA if you’d like.

  23. Alpheus says:

    Since I don’t drink, I’m only marginally aware of Utah’s bizarre liquor laws, including the state monopoly on hard liquor…but I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that Pennsylvania’s laws seem to be even more bizarre.

    In Utah, for example, you can buy a pack of beer at a convenience store, of all places!

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