In February 3rd, Governor Corbett announced his most recent plan to privatize the sale of alcoholic beverages in Pennsylvania. Under the Governor’s proposal he expects the State to raise $1 billion dollars over a three to four-year period by selling and auctioning wholesale and retail liquor licenses.
If the plan were to be approved “as-is” there would be six new categories of licenses. The number of retail outlets would go from 619 to about 1,200. Retail beer distributors, who now can only sell beer by the case or keg, could apply for a supplemental license to sell beer, wine, and liquor. Supermarkets could sell a customer up to two six-packs of beer and up to six bottles of wine at a time. Convenience stores and drugstores could sell a six-pack to go, but no wine. Restaurants and taverns, which can now sell customers no more than two six-packs of beer at a time, could sell up to six bottles of wine in addition to two six packs. Big-box stores such as Costco, Target and Wal-Mart would be allowed to sell beer by the case and sell up to six bottles of wine at a time.
The plan in its current form would guard against big players dominating the market by preventing any applicant from owning more than 5 percent of the licenses that will be available in any given county.
The Governor’s plan calls for significantly enhanced penalties and fines to licensees for selling alcohol to minors and visibly intoxicated patrons. Fines could increase from $1,000 – $5,000 to $5,000 – $10,000 for individual offenses, and there would be mandatory minimum license suspensions for businesses convicted of second and subsequent offenses. The additional revenue and increased fines would be designated for enforcement efforts by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, which would see a 22% funding increase under this plan.
Under Governor Corbett’s proposal the majority of the projected $1 billion generated from the sale and auctioning of the licenses would be applied to education in the form of block grants that are designed to focus on school safety, enhanced early education, individualized learning and science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses and programs.
It is important to note that while there may be much state-wide discussion concerning the privatization of liquor sales, such change is not automatic. It is just a plan, and there are certainly differing views on its desirability. In the past, there have been many efforts to make such changes, and they have traditionally not met with success. We will continue to monitor the progress of Governor Corbett’s proposal and will report on any progress.
— J. Ken Butera