Though considerable changes were made along the way, that didn’t keep members of the state House Liquor Control committee from signing off on a proposal yesterday to privatize wine and liquor sales in Pennsylvania. The Inky reports that lawmakers voted 14-10 (along party lines, naturally) to advance a revised version of the plan originally forth by Governor Corbett. The modifications added will keep state-owned liquor stores open and operating while booze sales take hold in the private sector. Over time, Wine and Spirits Shops will be phased out gradually, and some may remain open indefinitely.
Despite changes, plans still call for upwards of 1,200 liquor licenses to sold to the private sector. But in order to appease beer distributors, the mostly mom and pop operations that stand to lose the most in all this, will get first crack at them. Once they’ve been given first dibs, supermarkets, grocery stores and big-box retailers will get a chance to bid on the ones that remain. But if they want to sell beer, they will have to purchase a separate license.
On a county by county basis, state stores will remain open until the number of private businesses selling alcohol outnumber them by two to one. In some of Pennsyltucky’s more rural and remote regions, where state stores already operate without turning profits, will be kept open, indefinitely, or until there are fewer than 100 statewide.
Plans that passed committee yesterday could go up for vote on the House floor as early as this week, which is the furthest any privatization measure has advanced since Prohibition’s repeal in 1933. But that hardly means it’s going to be a slam dunk. House Democrats say the plan is half-baked, confusing, and being pushed through without proper vetting. State Senators from both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns over a sell-off, and organized labor will likely continue to oppose any and all efforts to privatize.