Monday, November 26, 2007

Pennsylvania Remains State with Dumbest Beer Law...Or Maybe Not

Update to the premature blathering below: I just got the following from PA State Senator Sean Logan (45th District, suburban Allegheny County, Democrat):

It is not dead. There were additional issues that needed to be addressed and those issues were going to be inserted into House Bill 1420. However, we have not worked these additional issues out yet and therefore needed to table House Bill 1420. It is not dead and we hope that we will have a vote on it before the end of the year.

Sean Logan


So...we'll keep an eye open...and maybe keep our mouths shut. There's a lesson here for me... Oh, and those "additional issues"? The latest iteration of the bill on the PA Legislative website shows language that would allow single bottle sales of "holiday" special beers, the big bottles of stuff that is just ridiculous to buy a case at a time, like magnums of Chimay or Mad Elf, and...Utopias.

Previously... The latest effort to kill Pennsylvania's ridiculous "Case Law," the law that requires beer bought at the off-premise beer stores Pennsylvanians call "beer distributors," is dead. This one had a lot of promise, seemed to have support and reasonable people thinking it had a good chance of getting through. But oh-so-quietly, it died in committee last week, in a quiet Monday of Thanksgiving week. Why? I don't know at this point, but I'm going to ask everyone I know who has an in. I want to know who did this, and why. If you've got any substantive clues, pass 'em on; don't waste everyone's time with baseless speculation about an unholy alliance of megabrewers and Bible-thumpers.

Thanks to Guy Hagner for the news. Guy's real close to opening One Guy in Berwick, by the way.

16 comments:

Mr. Thursday said...

Are you speaking of the SixPack Amendment? Say it isn't so!

Alan said...

Hey Lew - any idea of which committee. The web resources for the committees of the PA legislature are pretty good. You may be at least able to ID those on the committee and post their emails.

Sam K. said...

I know that the MBDA was opposed to the six pack version, and supported a 12 pack version instead, since that maintains some distinction between the distributor and the take out/six pack store (also their customer). To be honest, I think PA has a pretty good system. Most sizeable towns have one or more decent six pack shops for small purchases, and a good distributor for (usually fresher and never light-struck)cases. My experiences in supermarket states have been generally unremarkable.

Lew Bryson said...

Mr. T -- Yeah, I'm afraid so.

Alan -- Now that I'm looking at it, Alan, it might have been the whole Senate. It passed in the Law & Justice committee on a 9-1 vote. I'm making inquiries.

Sam -- I've got an okay six-pack store 20 minutes away in PA. But you know what? I've got an absolutely outstanding six-pack store 20 minutes away in New Jersey, where I can also get a good selection of single malts and a huge selection of wine. I'm not nuts about supermarket states either, I've said that a number of times; but I do think that the package store states generally have a better deal than either of us.

Six-pack stores in PA are really taverns, and they sell what they want, and charge more than a store would (which is completely understandable; generally, they have significantly higher overhead). This bill would have allowed distributors to sell their full range of beer by the sixer. Would have been hard on the current six-pack stores, but there doesn't seem to be much sympathy for them (which sucks, IMO, but I don't make this stuff up, I just report it).

Anyway, guys, like I said: inquiries are out, and we'll see what they have to say about how this best hope for normal-ish beer sales in the Keystone State went down with a whimper.

kevin said...

So, I understand the tavern/bar 6 pack takeout, but what law allows places like the Foodery in Philly or some of the other corner groceries to sell beer, but not the supermarkets or Whole Foods? Or is that some further limiting Philadelphia-specific law that prevents it? I thought there has to be seating for food consumption, but the Center City Foodery location definitely does not have that.

Lew Bryson said...

Kevin,

Simple: there is no "deli" or "pizzeria" license, which many people seem to think exists in PA. Any place that's selling six-packs at this point in time has to have some kind of bar/restaurant/hotel or resort/airport license: a tavern-type license, in short, that they have bought and use only for the "six-pack to go" option.

bill mc said...

Lew,

I've found some good supermarket states in my travels, you generally have to hit large cities with huge supermarkets for a really good selection. Although there have been a few times that I;ve hit a really good selection in a small town with a small market.

BTW, where is that six pack store in NJ you mention, I might want to hit it on one of my trips down there.

Thanks.

Lew Bryson said...

Bill,
There are exceptions in supermarket states, and as craft gets more popular, supermarkets will get better. I've just found that usually the specialty stores know more about handling booze of all sorts.

I was talking about Circle Liquors, on the Pennington Circle, just south of Pennington on Rt. 31.

Matt said...

Lew, if you don't mind me asking, where do you do your shopping in NJ? I usually frequent Joe Canals in Lawrenceville and Circle in Pennington, but would imagine that they are a little too far north for you.

matt said...

Lew, ignore my last post...I apparently was paying enough attention to read that Circle was the store in question.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Thanks once again for reminding me with a two-by-four why I don't move back to Selinsgrove, Selin's Grove Brewing notwithstanding.........

Anonymous said...

a. I don't understand the stigma against allowing single bottle sales as part of this amendment (leaving it up to the individual distributor to decide whether or not to allow it). Works great here in NJ (where a few stores have singles of selected beers for sale), and at State Line in MD (where you can buy a single bottle of *anything* in the store).

b. Circle is great, I stop in every time I'm up that way. And I heard that they have been bought and are now even better than before -- can't wait to get up there soon!

Lew Bryson said...

Anony,
There's no 'stigma,' it's not about New Drys or religious right-wingers or MADD or any of that. It's about business. The tavern-owners currently have a monopoly on six-pack sales (and single bottle sales), and they aren't going to let it go that easily. They're a powerful lobby, and the only reason this is going through is because the idea of six-pack sales at beer distributors consistently polls at over 85% approval in PA.

Anonymous said...

Good point...

Even though I live in NJ I do spend a lot of time in PA (and envy some of the beers you get that we don't).

All we can hope for is that the politicians might actually listen to the people for once, instead of business interests. And I'm not anti-business, but in almost all cases they have many more options than we the consumers do.

Scott Beveridge said...

I like the headline on this post.

Anonymous said...

http://www.beeryard.com/news/default.cfm?action=view&id=986

Looks like there is another chance this might happen