Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Senator Rafferty Comes Out Swinging

I have no time to blog about this -- working feverishly on PA Breweries 4 -- but big news yesterday in Harrisburg: State Senator John C. Rafferty (Montgomery-R) held a "rally" for reforming PA's beer laws, the main aim being to allow six-pack sales in grocery stores, convenience stores, and distributors. Read about it here, here (one of Karen Heller's best columns), and most of all here, in Rafferty's own talking points memo (this is a PDF, just to warn you). I'll be back to talk about this when I'm done with the book.

Two things, though. First, thanks to Stan Sheetz, CEO of the PA-based convenience store chain, for really pushing this issue. Second, to the distributors and six-pack store owners and employees who stand to face competition and possibly job losses from this issue: this day was bound to come. Instead of burning your time, money, and customer goodwill by fighting it in courts or the press, step up and compete. Cooperate to get the best possible bill for yourselves. Here's a plan: go for the package store system they have in Massachusetts. Instead of just "fixing" beer sales, do away with the State Store System and make beer distributors eligible to be "all-alcohol" stores, and that's where people buy their booze, from private stores, supplied by privately-owned wholesalers or directly from the suppliers. How's that sound? Radical, hey?

Double-posted to Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished.

15 comments:

Russ said...

Second, to the distributors and six-pack store owners and employees who stand to face competition and possibly job losses from this issue: this day was bound to come.

In situations like that I like to use old ice delivery men as an example. I'm sure it sucked for them when modern refrigeration became the norm and their jobs became obsolete, but you couldn't deny people refrigerators just to keep the ice men employed. Businesses and economies evolve, and protectionism is bound to fail in the long run (just ask Detroit). On behalf of my friends in PA, hope the reformers come out on top!

Al Luccioni said...

totally bound to happen. Over the years a huge opportunity for an arbitrage was created by the greed and lethargy of the Penna tavern association and the distributor's cartel now these guys are going to have their lunch taken away. Only thing that stinks about it is loss of small independent taverns and bars as these licenses get consumed by convenience and grocery stores and maybe less regional beer selection
Sincerely,

jp said...

"privately-owned wholesalers" Lew, I could see the sate giving up the downstream/retail end for a healthy dose of quick cash but giving up their monopoly the top end?

Lew Bryson said...

Hey, jp, I'm not talking about what's likely. I'm talking about what I'd like to see. I'm all for getting rid of the state monopoly on retail, but I'm completely not interested in that if the state retains the wholesale monopoly. Any fix, any change that involves the state as the sole wholesaler is a non-starter, far as I'm concerned; I'd rather keep it the way it is until we can get the whole thing.

jp said...

Agreed Lew that would be the smart realistic thing to do. But afterall we are talking about Keystone(cops) state

Rich said...

When I saw this on the news I thought Lew was slipping on the issue. I'm glad you got to blog about it. This is a step in the right direction and the fact that it got some good press is a big help. Props to senator Rafferty for doing the right thing.

Lew Bryson said...

Rich,
I found out about this as it was happening, about 11 yesterday morning. This was not a well-publicized event, this was a stunt. Which is fine, but the "consumers" at the "rally" were store employees. I'd really like to see other voices in this. Like yours and mine.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much the taverns would be hurt by this. How many people actually make a trip to a tavern to buy beer? I think it's more of a matter of convenience... they are already their and decide to take a 6 or two home. Or for those of us that live in urban areas with sensible zoning, they just have to walk around the corner or down the street to their local for a six pack, rather than driving to a distributor somewhere.

Russ, you are right. That put me off to the first Bush when he was running against Clinton. He made a big deal about some loggers out in Washington state who were threatened by an endangered species list. He missed the big picture. Maybe teach these guys to work at a recycling plant rather than making it your national campaign issue.

Anonymous said...

Monopoly what the hell do you think the wholesale business is now in phila and the five counties,there used to be Kunda Beer,Spaz wholesaler in Chester county,Wood in Delaware county,and the boys from Bounds beverage in Bucks county..So when you talk about job loses look what happen to the people who worked there for years,and built these business for those small wholesalers,do not let the door hit you in the ass..These guys were the true beer guys in the area.now look whats left of the mix.lousy service,piss poor morale,and an attitude of I am to big to fail,sounds alot like wall sreet to me be careful what you wish for..
Cheers

Lew Bryson said...

Yeah, how about that... And yet, TWO of those wholesalers who have...what did you say? "lousy service,piss poor morale,and an attitude of I am to big to fail" somehow managed to be recognized as the top craft beer wholesalers in the country last year, craft beer is in more accounts than ever in the five-county area, beer bars are exploding, and the local brewers who are with them are growing like mad. Damn. That sure does suck, doesn't it? Do you ever get tired of being wrong?

Everything comes back to Philadelphia wholesaler consolidation with you, doesn't it? Do you write comments to fishing sites about how Philadelphia wholesaler consolidation has affected your catch? Do you write comments to the Viagra website about...never mind. Here's a tip: start your own blog.

See ya, or as we used to say: *plonk*

Anonymous said...

This wouldve been a big deal 20 years ago but we now have six pack shops and places like Wegmans, Giant Eagle and Sheetz that can get bar licenses to get around the intent of the law these days. This guy is a few years too late.

---Guy said...

This was the topic of local (WB/Scranton) talk radio today. The prevailing opinions were:

1) With all the economic troubles the state is facing, why is Rafferty wasting his time with this?

2) Rafferty must have a monetary gain from this proposed legislation

3) There's already plenty of places to buy beer, if you didn't plan well enough that you need a 6-pack at the last minute, that's not my (the talk show host's) problem

4) Sen. Rafferty must be in the pocket of the booze industry.

5) Why does he want booze everywhere all the time, just think of the children (yes this was actually said).

6) All these new places selling beer will have to pay big money to train all their employees, where's this money coming from?

Lew Bryson said...

Holy crap, Guy, what station were you listening to, WMBDA? It's amazing, I look at the comments on news websites about this story, and they're running 5:1 in favor, easily. Yet talk radio runs like this? Strange.

Marc said...

The only distributors that should have to worry about this proposed bill are the distributors that have a terrible selection, employees, and ownership. i.e. business that are being protected for the wrong reasons. I enjoy working on cars, but that does not mean that I am going to buy all my parts from Wal Mart. Yes, I may by a filter or a qt. of oil there, when I am their for other things, but most of my purchases are done at an auto parts store with a KNOWLEDGEABLE employees. I think the same holds true for the beer industry.

Lew Bryson said...

Interesting, Marc. That makes me think of something that happened when I was at the MBDA convention a few years ago in Pittsburgh. I was walking out of the hotel for dinner with some wholesalers after having just given a speech on what to do when three-tier goes away -- ballsy, eh? -- when we saw a Sysco truck unloading at a restaurant. "There's the future of wholesaling," I said, a bit ruefully. And just about then, a little seafood delivery truck came speeding up, and a guy hopped out, grabbed a crate of live lobsters out of the back, and went running in the restaurant. And Victory's Bill Covaleski, who was also with us, says, "And that's the future of wholesaling too. There's always room for a small guy with great service and high-end products who is willing to hustle." Yup.