The case law may be in its last months, if your legislator votes for the right bill in the next few weeks. House Bill 606 is making its way to the PA House for a vote, very soon. It's a standard bill about liquor code enforcement, very technical, but an amendment is being attached to it that changes the case law. The changes:
* Before January 1, 2009: Restaurant, deli or tavern may sell one 6-pack, two six-packs, a 12-pack or 3-six packs. A beer distributor may sell any number of six-packs, cases or kegs.
* After January 1, 2009: Restaurant, deli or tavern may sell any configuration up to 18 cans or bottles totaling 288 ounces. Beer distributors may sell any configuration of a 6 pack or greater.
* Permit a holiday package prepared by the manufacturer containing 40 ounces of beer in one or more containers and at least two drinking glasses (mug, stein, etc.) to be sold at beer distributors only.
The key to this is the word six-pack. If you want to break the case law, here's what you want to do. Contact your legislator (the link takes you to a screen where you can type in your ZIP code and get connected to your legislator's e-mail) right now and tell them that you support the amendment to House Bill 606, as written to allow sales of six-packs at beer distributors. Tell them you want six-pack sales; not limited to just 12-pack, 15-pack, or 18-pack sales.
Because that's the tricksy thing: some larger brewers are evidently trying to get the language in the amendment...amended to read "12-pack" instead of "six-pack." Guess which package many craft brewers don't have? Right in one. Your Pennsylvania craft brewers (and Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch, I've been told by people in the legislature and the PA Brewers Guild) want six-packs, and that's what you want to tell your legislator to vote for.
Why is this such a big deal? Pennsylvanians have consistently shown support for an end to the case law (polls show 85+% of Pennsylvanians support being able to buy six-packs at distributors/beer stores); even MADD supports an end to the case law. So why do we still have the case law?
Conservatism, mostly, and I don't mean the political kind. Retailers rarely like to mess with something that's in place, especially in a heavily regulated business like beer sales in the Commonwealth. It's not really fair to them, when you look at it: for over seventy years, the law required them to sell beer by the case, so their stores are set up for that: mostly concrete floors and minimal shelving, room for a pallet-jack, and not much in the way of "pretty." Now, in a matter of months, they're faced with spending a lot of money and labor to make their stores six-pack stores. Makes you think of the old adage: "Be careful what you wish for."
But I'm not talking to you as a friend of retailers, wholesalers, or legislators. I'm talking to you as one of us: Pennsylvania beer-drinkers. The case law is a ridiculous vestige of the early days of Repeal. We are the only state in the Union to have a case law, and it's never done a thing for the good of the consumer (okay, not quite true, but the benefits have all been incidental). This is the best chance we've had in years to kill it. Do your bit to put a stake through the heart of this most asinine of beer laws.