Thursday, December 10, 2015

Groundhog Day In Pennsylvania

I've just spent the past 6 weeks researching and writing the 2016 State of the Industry Report. It always sucks the life out of me because its all encompassing 12 hour days without a break, even on weekends. When it's done, I'm ready for something else entirely. I look for re-runs of Friends and I Love Lucy or comedies I've seen a zillion times like Groundhog Day ... which is the segue into an article I saw this morning titled: Pennsylvania: Sweeping liquor Reform bill advances toward full Senate and uncertain future.

Since I mentioned Groundhog day, you probably think I am going to talk about how Pennsylvania has lived in the dark ages of liquor regulation, has state run stores and doesn't allow direct shipping, but locals have been pushing for direct shipping for years. And actually, on the last part - when I was writing the State of the Industry I found this cool map from ShipCompliant and the Wine Institute:

What's cool about the map is it's not predicting the Presidential Election. No Hillary didn't just kill Donald Trump .... but speaking of the Don, how can he say the things he says about pretty much every class of person, and still be at the top of the polls? 

I remember when we used to have good choices for President. At this juncture I'd take the Mayor of Punxsutawney....sorry... anyway ... what's cool about the map is it shows there are only 8 states left that don't allow any form of direct shipping. Starting January 1st, South Dakota is going to be blue, leaving only 7 states. The truth is a bunch of the blues don't allow more than a few quarts of wine a year, so they don't count. But speaking of dumb politics, why would a state make a rule like that when wine is metric? 

No that's not what I was going to talk about either. Remember I was talking about movies like Groundhog day that I'm watching to take my mind off the report I just finished writing. What I wanted to point out were the key provisions of the sweeping reforms in Pennsylvania which include:
  • No restrictions on hours, state-mandated holidays or Sunday operation of state liquor stores
  • Lottery sales at the state stores
  • Flexible pricing to allow state stores to offer special discounts and sales
  • Restaurants and hotels with licenses can sell up to four bottles of wine for take-out. ($2,000 permit fee + annual renewal fee of 2 percent of wine purchases from the Liquor Control Board)
  • Grocery stores that currently sell beer, such as Wegman's, may also sell up to four bottles of wine.
  • Casinos can sell beer, liquor and wine 24/7. Liquor can be consumed off the gaming floor. ($1 million application fee; $1 million annual renewal fee for first 4 years; $250,000 renewal thereafter)
  • Casinos can provide beer, liquor and wine free of charge at invitation-only events
  • LCB can reissue restaurant licenses that haven't been renewed or revoked via an auction. Up to 50 licenses can be auctioned per county, per year pending approval by the municipality in which the license is transferred.
  • Codifies a recent court decision that allows license-holders that also sell gas to continue to operate as long as the two operations are separate.
  • Expands the roster of organizations allowed to obtain special occasion permits to include the Boy Scouts of America, the Red Cross and others.
  • Creates a Liquor Study Commission to produce a full report of the state's alcohol distribution system. The General Assembly would have to act on its recommendations by June 2016.
  • Allows bed and breakfasts to provide no more than one bottle of wine to customers at check-in.
  • Allows breweries and some distilleries to participate in farmer's markets and food expos.
  • Prohibits the sale of powdered alcohol.
  • Allows licensed hotels and restaurants to sell alcohol between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. on Groundhog Day.
  • Allows wine producers to direct ship wine to state residents.
  • Reduces special liquor order markup to licensees from 30 percent to 10 percent and allows for direct shipment.
  • Allows for the sale of gift baskets containing one bottle of Pennsylvania wine.
  • Creates promotion boards for brewers and wine producers.

That's what I wanted to talk about. Finally we have sweeping liquor reform in Pennsylvania and the citizens of the state will now be able to buy alcohol starting at 7:00am on Groundhog Day! Good job Pennsylvania! You finally made a bill that makes sense! You deserve a break. Go watch reruns of Friends, I Love Lucy or Groundhog Day.

  • Feel free to chime in below in the comments. 
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  1. Hopefully another win soon for direct shipping! Great to see the sea of blue across the United States and reflect on how far we have come in the last ten years. More challenges ahead, but time also to count our blessings. And yes, Groundhog Day is a good movie and a good new rule for Pennsylvania.

    1. Thanks for logging in and commenting MJ. Pennsylvania ... I would love to look up how much it costs to run their State Controlled business versus the income, then compare that to just clipping coupons and collecting taxes and eliminating the State Run part of the business. Just a wild guess, but I think their tax payers would make more money and have more selection and competition, driving down prices if they got out of the way.

      Look at the things they are accomplishing in that sweeping bill. Can it be anymore clear that special interests are lining up outside their offices? ..... except the Ground Hog part which is truly revolutionary and forward thinking of them.

  2. Rob,

    This is great news! I'm hoping the PA market will be hungry for quality wine. Can you elaborate at all about the changes for direct shipping? To my understanding, Pennsylvania previously allowed direct shipping for wines not distributed in the sate, but only to state-run ABC stores, where the consumer paid taxes and fees. The fees were fairly prohibitive, something like a total of 22% plus a handling charge. Is the new bill opening up direct shipping to the purchaser's home? I can't seem to find confirmation either way, even from PA's own ABC site.


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