Pennsylvania has always had some of the oddest and strictest liquor laws in the nation. Beer had to be purchased from a distributor; wine and spirits were only available at state-run stores, and to grab a six-pack, meant stopping at a local tavern.
But despite the passage of three laws last year that were supposed to lower prices for consumers, yet raise tax revenues with so-called flexible pricing, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) raised retail prices on 421 products.
The Distilled Spirits Council Thursday (DISCUS) renewed its call for legislators to expand the number of outlets permitted to sell spirits following the promise of future liquor reforms contained within the new state budget.
“Pennsylvanians are witnessing the shortcomings of Act 39, with flexible pricing resulting in PLCB price hikes and wine-only grocery store sales losing money for the state,” said David Wojnar, Distilled Spirits Council vice president of state government relations, in a press release.
“Money is being left on the table by not having enough spirits retail stores to serve Pennsylvania consumers.”
Pennsylvania needs to better compete with surrounding states by providing “consumers with greater convenience, and most importantly right now, help in closing the state budget gap,” Wojnar said.
Income Potential in Plain Sight
DISCUS considers Pennsylvania under-served in spirits retail, with 0.67 spirits outlets per 10,000 population, versus a national average of 3.80 such outlets per 10,000 population.
According to an economic analysis by DISCUS, adding 900 spirits outlets would net the state $100 million in potential additional revenue. Allowing businesses that now sell just wine and beer to offer spirits would net the PLCB even higher profits without opening more state-run stores.
Pennsylvania wineries had been particularly restricted. Act 39 created a permit allowing retailers, including supermarkets, to sell wine-to-go. It also authorized direct shipping. Consumers can receive 36 cases from a winery each year for personal consumption. There are currently nearly 1,000 direct-wine shippers licensed, the PLCB said.