Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pennsylvania Beer Action Alert

Pennsylvania Beer Lovers: Please take a look at this.

It's news of PA Senate Bill 674, which proposes allowing beer distributors to sell 12-packs, and taverns to sell up to 3 six-packs. Pathetically incremental, I know, but it's a start. Please e-mail your PA Senator (you can easily do it here) and ask them to vote for Senate Bill 674. This bill will not affect consumption (it lets you buy LESS beer), it will not allow supermarket sales, it will not affect underage drinking. It is a convenience for citizens, that's all.

And for all you tavern owners, beer distributors, and folks in the Biz who would not like to see the boat get rocked...better to settle for a small rocking that might take some of the pressure off.

29 comments:

Jeff Bearer said...

Ms. Orie,

I'm a resident of Cranberry Township, and I would like you to vote for Senate Bill 674. This bill would change the allowed quantity of beer that is sold in Pennsylvania beer distributors and taverns. Beer distributors would be allowed to sell 12 packs of beer instead of the 24 packs which is the current minimum quantity that they sell now.

As a concession to the taverns it also allows tavern owners to sell three 6-packs instead of the two that they were previously allowed. But this provision will change little how tavern sales work, currently it's legal to purchase two 6-packs, put them in your car, then buy two more 6-packs as that is technically a separate visit. So people who want to buy a lot of beer at a tavern already have a way to game the system, don't let this kill the beer distributor part of the bill.

This bill does not affect consumption, underage drinking, or the touchy topic of supermarket sales. it is simply a convenience to the citizens giving them more choice.

Approach this from the craft beer enthusiast's point of view. Craft beer enthusiasts are people who treat beer as many treat fine wines. They enjoy savoring flavor and complexity of beer. It's not unusual to find 24 pack cases of craft beer that costs over $100. If this bill was passed the consumer would be able to buy in smaller quantities and this will make these beers accessible to more people who can't afford spending that much at one time or risk spending that much on a beer that they might not like.

For example last holiday season, I wanted to try some beers from Shelton Brothers Importing Company, They were only available at the beer distributor, I was not able to find it at any tavern around Pittsburgh where I could buy a few bottles. The cases at the beer distributor were $85 and I couldn't bring myself to spend that much on a beer that I've never had.

Thank you for your time and I ask you not to let the restaurant owners or beer wholesalers who only want to protect their turf bury this bill. Please let the citizens have the convenience and choice.

If you would like to discuss further the impact of this bill in more detail I would be happy to take part in the conversation.

Sincerely,
Jeff Bearer
Craft Beer Radio
http://www.craftbeerradio.com

Lew Bryson said...

Nicely done, Jeff. My only advice would be to cut a bit: Congress.org suggests keeping these things short (under 1500 characters) to have more impact (because legislators have tiny little attention spans?).

Thanks for sharing: folks, grab some ideas and get writing: this comes up for discussion in just a few weeks.

Jeff Bearer said...

I did put all the meat in the front in the case that the aide reading it got bored.

It was hard to get more concise and also explain that this isn't just about getting twelve packs of Milwaukee's Best.

bdkneela said...

Done, I agree this would be a small step, but every step towards abolishing the case laws works for me and beer drinkers all over PA!

See ya on Saturday Lew, can't wait!!!

Lew Bryson said...

Ah, well, Jeff, that's why I get the big money (HA!): Lew, we need a story about the entire history of pilsner; you've got 500 words.

You get out the Pith-O-Meter, and get to it!

Jimmy Carter used to tell a story about when he worked for Adm. Rickover in the Navy. He wrote a four-page memo on an important topic. Rickover sent it back, with "Too long!" written on the last page. Carter got it down to two pages; same result. He finally boiled it down to one page, took it in and tossed it on Rickover's desk, told him he couldn't get it any shorter. Rickover smiles, and says, "Okay, this time I'll actually read it."

ksqdomer said...

is this for a 12 pack of the same beer? I assume not a six pack of 2 different beers.

Lew Bryson said...

You know, I don't know. Given that PA seems to be very very scared of selling beers that the manufacturer didn't intend to be sold together -- for reasons rarely explained -- I'd guess no. Hell, that would be TOO CONVENIENT.

mark said...

Sent mine off. Lets hope he reads the first paragraph at least. One small step...

Jeff Bearer said...

Wowzers, I got a reply from Ms. Orie herself last night, not one of her aides. And she wants me to discuss it further with a member of her staff.

Who would have thought that emailing your elected officials actually worked.

She said that she had not yet seen the bill, but supports the idea.

Lew Bryson said...

Bravo, Ms. Orie! I have yet to receive any response from my state senator, Robert Tomlinson. That's right: no response at all from PA State Senator Robert M. "Tommy" Tomlinson, Republican, representing the 6th District. Funny, his website says that he'll be "happy to reply."

Nikki said...

Sent to Connie Williams. Having lived in NH (beer in the supermarkets) and CA (likker in the supermarkets!) we've had a really difficult time adjusting.

roan22 said...

I sent my letter off to Senator Dominic Pileggi. Cheers Lew and if he responds I'll send you the response.

Scoats said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lew Bryson said...

Actually, Scoats, dists are specifically prohibited by the PA Liquor Code from making up mixed cases; it was a change that went through in 1996, I think. If you're interested, I can give you a cite on it. Any dists who are doing it (and there are a number of them) are doing it in ignorance or defiance of the law (and bravo if they are; it's a stupid law). But that's why I said what I said: by strict reading of the law, that's not legal for dists. Why they're under that restriction and taverns are not is one more mystery of the PA Liquor Code.

Carrie said...

I moved from PA to New York City, so I can't write my senator, but rest assured, I plastered everyone I know in PA to write their senators. The case rule in PA is so silly and I can only imagine how much it probably discourages people from experimenting with craft brews.

Lew Bryson said...

A note: I deleted Scoats's comment above because it mentioned a specific distributor who may or may not have been mixing cases. Don't want anyone getting in unanticipated trouble. Here's the comment without the name:

Scoats said:

"is this for a 12 pack of the same beer? I assume not a six pack of 2 different beers."

Currently distributors can sell mixed cases [name of distributor deleted here], and bars can sell two different six packs at once, so I don't see why D's won't be able to sell two different six packs.

Especially if the language of the change is similar to current law, which doesn't mention the number of bottles, just the number of ounces.

roan22 said...

No response yet from Dominic Pileggi, and I've seen his limo, running, in his law firm office driveway on Bullens Lane yesterday. I was riding in the passenger seat and definitely caught Mr. Dominic's name posted on the outside of the Pileggi, Pileggi and Pileggi law firm office. I believe the area is called Woodlyn. the gate to Widener U.'s playing fields are one "block" down from the Senator's office.

Lew Bryson said...

Rebecca,

Just remember: it's bad form to stalk politicians! But feel free to send him another letter.

roan22 said...

LOL nice call, Lew. No stalking agenda here; that info was gleaned from one drive-by observation. I've passed it 100s of times not knowing who the trio were.

Matt said...

I sent a message to Jay Costa (Pittsburgh). As a beer enthusiast and new resident of PA, I simply cannot fathom the logic behind these prohibition-era laws. If anyone can explain them, by the way, I would really appreciate it. Nobody in PA that I've talked to has any clue why you can only buy beer in 24 packs, and hasn't even thought about it until I ask...

Jackorain said...

I sent my senator, Stewart Greenleaf, an email using Jeff's as a guide. Hope you don't mind jeff.

Wickerman said...

I am pleased to see so much change brought to the PLCB in the past year or so. I am astonished that there are so many hoops to jump through, even still.

I fail to see the value of allowing grocery stores to sell beer in their "restaurants", rather than on their shelves.

Offhand, I cannot name for you another state where I cannot enter a normal grocery store and see beer, often a good variety of beer, for sale on the shelves. I don't think that these other states are smoking ruins because they let you buy beer in a supermarket.

Susan Powter probably doesn't know Maudite from milk, but she did say, "Stop the madness"...which has relevance here.

Lew Bryson said...

I did finally hear back from my state senator, by snail mail, telling me that the bill was still in committee -- the day before it passed the committee's vote and went before the full senate. Great...

Supposedly, it probably won't come up for a vote until the Fall.

Wickerman, most of the improvements in the PLCB have had to do with the state-run wine and liquor monopoly, not beer. Beer's the red-headed stepchild in PA...why, I've no idea. We've certainly got a much more rich history as a brewing state than as a wine-making state.

Bunny Watson said...

I moved to PA from Delaware, I can't believe how bassackwards PA liquor laws are. The outrageous taxes on alcohol combined with the inconvenience of buying a case to avoid the ridiculous prices of a six-pack have me driving once a month to Delaware to stock up. Besides, I live alone and don't want to drink 24 of the same beer in a row (not very many good variety packs out there). And to think I used to make fun of the out-of-staters who drove to Delaware to shop without sales tax. Now I'm one of them.

Oh, and Wickerman, in Delaware you can't buy beer in the grocery store, but you go to a liquor store and can buy all types of alcohol at them, with unregulated prices (which means competition, which means lower prices), on any day of the week. And usually the liquor stores are close to the grocery stores, so it's not really an inconvenience.

Lew Bryson said...

Heh. Welcome to PA, Bunny.

The beer taxes are not outrageous at all, actually: second-lowest in the country. And if the law that's in the state Senate goes through, and distributors can start selling sixers, I think you're going to see the price of a six-pack come down significantly.

But the state liquor stores? I got nothing good to say about them. Scrap the system, scrap it now, and get rid of the Johnstown Emergency Tax -- 18%, I think -- on liquor. The emergency's been over for 70 years.

Bunny Watson said...

Thanks, Lew. This state is mad. And you're right, I forgot that the ridiculous tax is on the liquor. Having liquor stores run by the state really annoys me too - especially when they try and play it like it's such a wonderful thing that the state decides what kind of liquor is available to me, and at what price.

And of course, the idea that they're going to continue severely regulating our rights to a legal product because they might upset businesses is absurd as well.

I'll certainly be keeping a close eye on the proposed law.

Matt said...

I finally heard back from Jay Costa, with a carefully noncommittal response- quoted below:

"I realize that Pennsylvania's laws
regarding the sale of beer and malt beverages is significantly different
from that in other states, and I understand your interest in changing
that law. I look forward to considering this legislation, and I will
keep your support for it in mind as it moves through the legislative
process."

todd said...

Lew I have been emailing about this as well.

Jerry Nailor doesn't support it. He is not sure six packs should be sold anywhere but the bar.

I'm also asking to do away with the 1996 "case" update.

Samir said...

What happened to this bill? I had to buy a six pack from a tavern Mike's hard lemonade for $11. what a ripoff!!