The Full Bar - all my pages

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pittsburgh Beer Lovers: Volunteer this weekend!

I got the following from Sean Casey, owner of Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh. Sean has been a leader in the fight against the inflationary and unfair 10% "poured drink" tax in Allegheny County. You must know my position on booze taxes by now: We pay enough now. If a government service is of benefit to the entire public, then the entire public should pay for it.

This tax has been misrepresented by its proponents from the beginning: they lied about whether or not they would enact it, they lied about who would have to pay it, they lied about how much money it would take from residents pockets, they even lied about what it would be applied to (folks were told that to-go sixpacks would not be taxable; then the County decided that they were, even though the tax was presented as a poured drink tax).

Now that the people of Allegheny County have reared up and signed a petition for a referendum on the tax, about 45,000 of them. The response from those who want to see this unfair tax stay in place? They sued, challenging the legitimacy of the signatures. They're looking to have 29,000 of them thrown out. The infernal gall of them...

You can help by volunteering to inspect signatures this weekend. Here's what Sean had to say:

Frederick Hannah, Shawn Flaherty and Shirley Williamson have filed a suit to challenge the legitimacy of the 40,000 signatures certified by Allegheny County Division of Elections. They are seeking to throw out approximately 29,000 signatures out of the roughly 45,000 signatures filed by our citizenry on a myriad of nuances.

Preliminary instructions from the court today created a guideline of what should be acceptable parameters for voters that signed the “Drink Tax referendum.” This indicates that knit picky challenges will be rejected and voter spirit will be protected.

Friends Against Counterproductive Taxation (FACT, a group that is against government applying onerous taxation on small businesses) is looking for volunteers this Saturday -9/13 and Sunday - 9/14. We need volunteers to help in the signature protection/certification process that would be akin to the chad recounts that transpired in Florida. This recount will occur at the Division of Elections downtown.

If you would like to volunteer for a 4 hour or 8 hour shift, please forward an email to myself at and copy and/or call me at
work 412-688-8282.

The spirit of the people should be allowed to prevail. We appreciate the verbal support and emails of encouragement that many of your provide to us on this issue.
Casey calls this effort "Whiskey Rebellion II." A wonderful sentiment. Now get out there and count!


Anonymous said...

Hey Lew, here's a poposition I will show up if FACT(and any other Pa state booze organization) will quit using their shills otherwise known as the PA Tavern Association to lobby the PA legislature to block meaningful reform of the blue laws. Man these guys are a joke. They claim they want to start a Whiskey Rebellion against government excess, but at the same time, use the very same excess to beat consumers over the head with a coercive monopoly on beer-take out policy, giving them huge margins. Or how about the way they block any meaningful reform on liquor license policy. People complain about 10% tax how about the effect on prices if you liberalize these laws? Yes they are getting the short end of the stick on this policy, but they have done a great job petitioning the government to prevent free market competition and really squeeze the consumer.As far as I am concerned they are as about free-market oriented as the Allegheny County Port Authority. Beer nuts to them.

Lew Bryson said...

Hey, Frank, do you have anything to back up your allegation that FACT is a front for the Tavern Owners Association? Could be, I don't know, but if it's not, you've got no point. Two wrongs don't make any kind of right. I'll take things one at a time: this new tax is grabbing money right out of consumers' pockets when they buy a drink, and out of businesses pockets when it makes the cost of going out so much more expensive that people don't spend as much. I'll make it real simple: beer tax = bad. And yeah, six-pack/case law = bad, and PA liquor license system = bad. It irks me that the TOA doesn't see that last one -- that it's driving licenses into big chain franchises and small taverns out of business -- but that's the way things go.

One thing at a time. Except when it comes to abolishing the PLCB, of course.

Anonymous said...

It is not a front for the tavern association I did not mean to imply that. But it is a front for tavern owners look at (the board for Pete's sake). It is is a very salient point Lew. Out of one side of their mouth Allegheny tavern owners are crying to get government interference out their business when it takes money out of their pockets,(via FACT) Out of the other side of their mouth tavern owners are all about the importance of of Pa being a "control state" when its suits their interest and allows them to earn huge margins on take out business and put up barriers to entry to competition like limiting liquor licenses (via the lobbying efforts of Pa tavern association) You can't have it both ways. Well I guess you can if you are in Pennsylvania.

Lew Bryson said...

I see the board...who would you expect to be on it? Private citizens? This is like the people who make a big deal about beer distributors contributing money to the Maine beer tax repeal movement: it's their main issue.

But don't think things are different in other states. Sure, the six-pack thing is peculiar to us, but the rest of this jockeying isn't. The license situation's just as screwed in New Jersey, just as screwed in Indiana, and so on.

I don't intend to support them on license limitations. But when they're providing framework to fight something we can all agree on...why not join them? Common cause works everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Oh I know I just find it ironic that people around here are all fired up about this 10% pour tax, when it reality it is the least of inefficiencies related to the coercion that is the alcoholic beverage industry in this county and state. I mean its silly. If we could get this kind of support to start liberalizing the blue laws in the state you might see real liberalization, but we would rather expend energy on 10% that at least is going to be redistributed to as a public good (I am not in favor of this tax mind you, I am just trying to be logical) as opposed to the coercion of suppliers at every level of the distribution chain in this state. As far as sin taxes paying for public goods I can think of about a dozen other examples that have gone on for decades/centuries and I don't see or anybody out there protesting. Whiskey rebellion what a joke. But go ahead don't let me discourage you or anybody else but this is textbook missing the forest for the trees.

Lew Bryson said...


Couldn't disagree with you more. The point is that the tax is new, and people are fired why not take it off? And if we can get them used to the idea of standing up against booze piracy -- much like Yuengling and craft beers pried open people's brand loyalty -- then we can move on to other things. Just because you can't get everything you want, doesn't mean you shouldn't try to get what you can.

Anonymous said...

lew i was in pittsburgh in august and the only bar that charged the beer tax was the way overated FATHEADS .great beer prices in pittsburgh bars that i will never see in new york