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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Sixer for your Thoughts

I've got a new Buzz up on my website: A Six-pack of Thoughts. There are some continuing problems with drinking, and I just had to take a swing at a few of them: alcohol-fueled bad behavior, booze used as a scapegoat, rising beer prices without rising brewer's profits, the crappy situation with drinking in Pennsylvania, squealing anti-alcohol New Dry weenies, and the disaster we call bar licenses. Feast your eyes.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! Let me add one observation to your bar licensing harangue: the state of Pennsylvania creates individual wealth with the issuance of bar licenses. When they are available from the state, they are sold at a reasonable fee. However, they then become the personal property of that owner, who enjoys the profit between the few grand he paid for the license, and the street value you quote, sometimes a MILLION DOLLARS!

Why does the state not hold these licenses itself, so that when a license holder no longer wants to use the license, it should get turned back to THE STATE! What a concept! We have now done the same thing with casino licenses. This is public money down the tubes! Total BS! My two cents worth!

Rich said...

Lew, you're brilliant! I love the rants, but honestly, how long until something is done about these issues or until our state government decides to make some changes? Do they realize there is a problem or are the all spineless politicians that are afraid to make an anti-dry statement because their wives will grab them by their ears and kick their little you-know-whats?

In all seriousness, I'm for change, but I just don't ever see it happening. No matter how much we whine and how much we try to convince the non-drinking public that there are responsible beer lovers out there that just want some convenience and not to get a six pack of brew just so they can drive drunk all day and run over puppies.

Dave said...

That's a good list, especially the part about beer violence in the UK. As a huge professional soccer fan I'm very aware of the problems the UK has had over the years with hooliganism. From what I hear they've finally been able to get some control over that problem. Back in the 80s though, it was huge and beer/alcohol was always blamed. It didn't help that the violent thugs were always smashed, but beer became a scapegoat for an issue that was much more complex and difficult than people were willing to admit. Blame the boozers instead of the culture these disaffected youth grew up's easier. Similar patterns are emerging with the new wave of violence...make beer the scapegoat instead of thinking about what the actual causes are.

Lew Bryson said...

Indeed, the state is losing big bucks on this. But I'd much rather see the big bucks squeezed OUT of the system, by making licenses a fee system, a reasonable fee, to cover inspections, paperwork, etc., not to create a side market in paper. The big question is how do you do that while not screwing everyone who paid big bucks for a license? There are only ugly answers.

Lew Bryson said...

Honestly? The atmosphere is better now than it has been in years. There have been huge changes in the booze business legal arena, and more are on the way. We really do have a serious shot at six-pack sales at beer stores, a major advance. Will it still suck? Yup. But there is a poll circulating in Harrisburg that shows over 90% of Pennsylvanians support six-pack sales in beer stores. That kind of number does not get ignored. That's a "Look what we did for you!" kind of number. There is a finite number of New Dry legislators, I've been told, and the other folks in Harrisburg are finally waking up to the fact that these guys do not have as much power upstate as they used to. Like I said: better than it's ever been. I'm just doing my part by stirring the pot.

Anonymous said...

"The big question is how do you do that while not screwing everyone who paid big bucks for a license? There are only ugly answers."

Time to pick sides, I guess, if you want to change things.

Lew Bryson said...

Not necessarily so. There is a possibility that this could all work out: sell the State Store system in PA, and spread the monies realized out to repay license owners the value lost when you turn the licenses over to a fee system. A one-time solution to two thorny problems. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

"sell the State Store system in PA"

Lew, care to flesh out your plan a little?

Lew Bryson said...


Iowa realized $6 billion selling its system of state-owned liquor stores; why would Pennsylvania not make a similar number? How much flesh do you want?

Anonymous said...

Its about time that change took place there. Didn't one of the recent Governors (Casey, I think) try to break the State Store system? Too bad he's not in office now, it would probably go over with a bang.

Anonymous said...


I just wanted more details.

Selling the state store system seems like such a huge undertaking, I can barely imagine how it would be done.

I didn't know about Iowa.

I'll investigate that situation to get some perspective on how such a thing could be accomplished.

Unknown said...

Lew wrote: "You want to tinker with laws to change how we drink in this country? Make liquor licenses cheap again, and bring back the corner bar."

To that I say, "Bryson for Governor!"

Please consider running.

Anonymous said...

"how do you do that while not screwing everyone who paid big bucks for a license?"

Irrelevant. They paid for something that they needed or wanted at the time, and agreed at that time to pay that price. What happens in the future has no bearing on that, and reforming the laws and the system for the better should not be hampered by pandering to those who came before. If you do that, then nothing gets acccomplished.

Life is not always fair, and all these uber-liberal attempts to make everything fair for everyone all the time really irk me. When something is broken you have to fix it, period. Sometimes you just have to say, "sorry" and move on to better times.

Anonymous said...

"Bryson for Governor"

You'd have to be MADD not to vote for him :)

Lew Bryson said...


Ignoring it is not going to get legislation passed. Plain and simple. It's not pandering when you try to level the playing field -- after years of bad policy -- by something less abrupt than simply grabbing the board and wrenching it into position.

Case in point: the six-pack law that may be passing in PA could have been done by just saying "It's now legal to sell six-packs in distributors." But it wouldn't have passed. Instead, it's a deal that recognizes that many businesses have built their plans around an artificial reality put in place by the state, and tries to minimize the bottom-line impact of the change.

The other thing that made the six-pack law possible is that the legislators involved finally realized that the key to passing it was to position it as something the vast majority of PA consumers wanted, not as something the distributors wanted. I was surprised to find out last week that a casual remark I made in a conversation two years ago may have had a lot to do with that. Whatever works. Hardline positions are great for debates, and they can push things into the arena where they can actually be considered, but they aren't much when it comes time for actually getting things done. Like I said in The Buzz, PA's booze situation will still suck...but it'll be better, and we're moving in the right direction.