Wasted Money: Advertising Wine & Liquor in Pennsylvania

In the last week, I’ve had two wineries run ads that popped up for me on Facebook.  Unfortunately, it’s another example of how government regulation leads to more waste in the economy.  How is a Facebook ad an example of wasted money due to government intervention in the market?  Stick with me here while I explain:

Victim 1: Elyse Winery
All wine sold in Pennsylvania is governed by bureaucrats at the PLCB. According to the law, we cannot even purchase it out-of-state and bring it back in. According to the PLCB’s website, there are exactly 3 bottles available to the entire state. Three freakin’ bottles for the entire state of Pennsylvania, and they are located about an hour from here. What are the chances I’m actually going to go try their product? I would have been open to trying a new wine if a liquor store near me carried it, or there were more than 3 bottles in the entire state. As it is, I just felt sorry for the winery owners who are wasting their precious cash advertising to Pennsylvania residents who can’t even buy their wines (unless they live near the store the bureaucrats have deemed “worthy” to carry the Elyse product).

Victim 2: Gracianna Winery
The bureaucrats at the PLCB have decided not to allow us taxpayers to sample any products made by Gracianna Winery. We cannot special order (at a minimum of 6 bottles, typically), nor can we find it for sale at any retail outlets.

Victim 3: Chambord Flavored Vodka
Black raspberry-flavored vodka sounds intriguing. I first heard about it via an advertisement on a SEPTA bus driving around this area. Unfortunately, none of state stores located near the bus route actually carry the product. Anyone driving behind it would need to travel to another town to actually purchase the product. What the hell is the use of advertising it if you can’t even buy it at any of the government-controlled stores near the bus route? It’s certainly a lot more waste for Chambord than the two winery ads.

We need state liquor/wine privatization now. I realize that these products aren’t likely to appear on the shelves of any stores that will open under a private system near me. However, with market forces, I can reward those private sellers who do carry an interesting variety of wines & liquors. I realize that technically I could special order more products through my local store, but since most of the state employees around here make it clear that you are unwelcome as a customer in their store, it’s not something I’m likely to try anytime soon. If a private store was run by a reasonably friendly staff, then I’d likely approach them with requests to try new products I see advertised. Then, those dollars wouldn’t be wasted.

In the meantime, the PLCB staffers have declared war on us. I look forward to even worse service and more obnoxious employees getting in the way of my attempts to buy wine & liquor. Fortunately, the GOP has indicated they will try to have a privatization bill passed in the House by Memorial Day. That will be something worth raising a glass to on the holiday weekend!

15 thoughts on “Wasted Money: Advertising Wine & Liquor in Pennsylvania”

  1. Do the wineries allow visiting and tasting? I think that’s the main purpose of…oh nevermind, I checked – you have to come all the way out here to Napa or the Russsian River. When I read, “they are located about an hour from here. ” I thought you meant the wineries…

  2. I have heard through the grapevine that Sunday sales of wine in the State of Maryland are doing better than sales in Delaware. I have also heard that you can order whatever you want and they will call you when your order is in and have the bottles all nicely boxed up and ready for pick up. Of course, I hear all this from my friend that lives in Elkton.

  3. The liquor store union workers say “this is WAR!” (if you follow the linky in Sebastian’s post. Whatever happed to all those calls for civility and restraint from using militaristic and violent imagery in politics?

  4. All liquor & wine sales in Pennsylvania only happen through the state. Restaurants have to order it through the state system, and all retail outlets are state-owned stores with state unionized employees. It is illegal to bring wine or liquor in from out-of-state. Wine & liquor are only sold here with the blessing of unionized bureaucrats. The retail union has declared “war” on all of us who think the system sucks.

    I’ve heard stories from food writers of staff who “informed” him that not only did they not carry what he was looking for (they did), but that the entire varietal did not actually exist (really? That’s news for the growers!). One blogger who opposes the system highlighted a story on a wedding blog of a bride & groom who made a custom wine list for their reception based on wines that had some meaning in their relationship – none of them were approved for sale by the state, so they had to completely remake their wine list to something they could get in time for their wedding.

    Virginia has a state-owned & run liquor operation, and one reason you don’t see quite as much hostility toward the system there is because their employees don’t hate the consumer as much. When I bought some sparkling white wine for mimosas on New Year’s Eve, the clerk at our local store looked at me with enough contempt and hate for intruding on his work day that, if there hadn’t been a huge line behind me, I would have worried he was going to follow me out and do something. Our other local store has a woman who needs hearing aids, but won’t get them and so she yells everything she says – even when she’s standing right next to you. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost hearing there before.

    To us, New Jersey is a bastian of freedom when it comes to wine & liquor sales.

  5. The other reason that there’s not as much hostility in VA is that you can get wine and beer without going through the state run stores. I have a decent selection of wine and beer available at Harris Teeter, and a ridiculous selection available at the local Total Wines.

    1. That is very true, Laughingdog. It makes a big difference when you can buy a bottle of wine for dinner without much fuss. Beer sales here also suck, but they aren’t run by the state at the retail level. Plus, that’s a completely different battle to take on because of the distributor lobby. Although, to their credit, Republicans in the state Senate have indicated they will also reform our beer sales laws. But the House has opted to focus on the liquor/wine sales since that’s going to be easier to privatize.

      But, on beer sales, Wegmans and Sheetz have started to rock the boat. Maybe we can get full reform here at some point.

  6. Wow, that’s a batsh*t insane system.

    How did that mess get set up, is it something left over from Prohibition Era?

    Either way, those unions and stores deserve to be torn down.

    1. Ted, here’s the answer to your questions:

      “The PLCB was established in conjunction with the 21st Amendment and the repeal of prohibition. In 1933, just four days before the sale of alcohol became legal in Pennsylvania, the Board was officially organized. Upon its creation, Governor Gifford Pinchot stated that the purpose of the Board was to ‘discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible.'”

      According to Sebastian (a lifelong Pennsylvania resident), there was a time when the government was actually losing money selling liquor. As it is, they technically make a profit, but only $90 million/year on revenue of $1.4 billion/year according to the last article I saw with finance numbers. It’s really pathetic considering they are a monopoly. They are also the largest buyer in the US since they buy for the entire state, yet our prices are consistently higher than the free(r) market states around us.

  7. I usually go to Delaware and buy whatever I want. I can get a bottle of Lagavulin16 for $40 cheaper than through the State store system, and it’s always in stock. I have to drive to Chestnut Hill for the priveledge of paying almost double for the same exact bottle.

    Come and get me PA…. your stupid laws don’t apply to me!

  8. Holy crap! That royally sucks.

    I live in the People’s Socialist Republik of Illinois and I can buy a hip flask bottle of Everclear (190 proof grain alcohol) at the damn gas station.

    If it makes Illinois look like a bastion of freedom, something is not right….

  9. We here in Alabama finally were able to get some private sales of alcholic products. Problem is they have to buy from the State Store which only carries approved brands.

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