The Real Skinny on Your Skinny Margarita
Pennsylvania is literally one of the very last states to start, let alone finish, the conversation around privatizing the sale of liquor.
Liquor legislation, which would either privatize or reform Pennsylvania’s current liquor law (depending on which bill one is considering) has been discussed in the General Assembly during several legislative sessions. It has been a priority for a number of legislative leaders while others have strongly opposed.
Most Republican legislators in the House and some in the Senate generally are interested in divesting the State from the business of selling liquor; some for fiscal reasons others for philosophical ones. A few House Republicans and more Senate Republicans are against full privatization, preferring reform to varying degrees. The Governor and Democratic legislators favor some degree of reform, primarily to increase consumer convenience, while keeping the liquor store system intact.
Stumbling Over Beer
Who should be able to sell beer? That is a question that is also up for debate. Beer distributors want no change to their monopoly of selling beer by the case. Supermarkets and convenience stores want to sell beer without having to buy expensive restaurant licenses, which a few of them across the State have done. Taverns want to be able to sell more than their currently allowed two six packs. The “who should sell beer?” issue complicates the already robust discussions over who should sell wine and spirits.
House Bill 466 (Prime Sponsor – Speaker Mike Turzai) passed the House and Senate, with amendments which the House agreed to, on June 30, 2015 but was vetoed by the Governor on July 2nd. House Bill 1690, also prime sponsored by the Speaker, passed the House in November 2015 and was then passed by the Senate in December with numerous amendments. It has remained in the House Rules Committee since then.
Various House and Senate Democrats have also introduced liquor bills trying to satisfy majorities. None have been reported out of committee.
Legislators favoring liquor privatization continue this year to seek a compromise position between those policy makers who want privatization and those who will accept some reforms to our current liquor system that brings consumers more convenience yet maintains the status quo on State owned liquor stores.
As Pugliese Associates represents the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, we are advocating for full privatization. At the very least, legislation should be enacted this year that reduces costs to licensed establishments for the purchase of wine and spirits. Pennsylvania restaurants pay some of the highest costs in the country for wine and spirits; resulting in higher costs to customers. Additionally, providers like our PRLA members should have the opportunity to sell a few bottles of wine “to go” to customers who ask for this convenience – ultimately providing better access and reduced costs to the consumer.
We are hopeful that a liquor bill will pass as part of the negotiations for a compromise on the 2016-2017 budget and we will continue to encourage and support legislation in this direction.
However, as most all are aware, Governor Wolf and House and Senate leaders have had difficulties reaching agreement this past year with regard to the budget and budget related bills. With that history, it is again unclear (as of this moment) when or if agreement will be reached on the upcoming budget, with or without pension and liquor reforms.
Stay tuned to Pugliese Associates for further updates.