Here We Go Again: Plans Introduced to Privatize the State’s Liquor Stores

Not going anywhere any time soon.
Not going anywhere any time soon.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for lawmakers to do away with Pennsylvania’s archaic, expensive and most frustrating Liquor Control Board anytime soon. Though House Majority Leader Mike Turzai renewed his vow to get the state out of the business of selling booze yesterday, based on how similar efforts in the recent past have gone over, it’s doubtful a cohesive plan that everyone can agree with will ever pass. Or for that matter, even reach the House floor for a proper vote. The fact that Turzai’s proposal hit resistance before reaching Governor Corbett’s desk, has us wondering if this time around the big booze battle will play out more like Groundhog Day or The Boy Who Cried Wolf?

State Rep. John Taylor, chairman of the House Liquor Control Committee, has already expressed an interest in opening liquor sales to the private sector, while keeping the state’s Wine and Spirits Shops open for business. What’s more, the plan to open beer and wine sales to taverns, supermarkets, and big-box retailers isn’t sitting well with the Malt Beverage Distributor Association, a group that represents the state’s beer distributors. They fear that a sudden increase in competition will decimate their decades-old businesses, and that small, independent mom-and-pop businesses like their’s won’t be able to afford the proposed “enhanced licenses” that would allow them to sell wine and liquor.

Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of politicians who would prefer to keep the state store system, streamline and modernize it, and make it as profitable as possible. And then there’s that whole thing where thousands of LCB workers will be put out on the unemployment line if the liquor stores go away. No official with hopes for reelection wants that blood on their hands.

Plan for LCB privatization is formally introduced [Inquirer]