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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Not to forget Wine in grocery stores: Garces Trading Company

Okay, first a confession: I really, really want to go to Jose Garces's new place, Garces Trading Company. The foodstuffs sound delicious, hell, even the coffee sounds good. And that wine, stuff you can't even get anywhere else --

Oh. Wait. That's the problem. Garces Trading Company includes a small area that is technically a Pennsylvania "Wine and Spirits Shoppe," even though it doesn't sell any spirits; so let's just call it what it is: a State Store, staffed by PLCB personnel. So it's not wine being sold by Garces (since that would, of course, be illegal), it's just a store inside his ... grocery store.

Why is this rotten? Well, I laid it all out here about a year ago, but let's run it real briefly: this deal (and it is a deal: the PLCB claims it put out an ad in the paper and Garces answered it) allows Jose Garces to take part of a small part of the state's monopoly on wine sales. Not only can he sell wine inside his store, something no one else in Pennsylvania can do, but the PLCB is also slipping him exclusive wines. In the words of Liquor Control Board wine buyer Cindy Carnieki (quoted on the WHYY site) "These wines are not in restaurants, not in PLCB stores. We're picking very exclusive wines for this. They are seeing wines they've never seen before." And Garces is getting all this...without even having to buy a license. He's a BYOB where you can Buy Your Own Bottle -- your exclusive bottle! -- right inside the restaurant.*

So what. I can hear people saying it: so what?! This is great, we can get wines we can't get anywhere else, hurray, Pennsylvania's not so bad!

How is it fair for Garces and Garces alone to get this deal? If this is the pilot program the PLCB claims it is, how will it be fair unless every restaurant that wants one, from Philly to Erie, gets one, and each one gets 'very exclusive wines' for their own customers' pleasure? Why, it won't be, because that would be impossible. Why not have cognac shops inside cigar shops, or rum selections in Caribbean bodegas?

I said that the PLCB was arrogant in the post linked above. I may be wrong. They're a mad, blood-blinded Cape buffalo, crashing through booze retail in Pennsylvania on a destructive, random path: yes to this beer sale, but not to that one; no wine sales in grocery stores (unless it's by machine), yes to beer sales in grocery stores; exercise monopoly muscle but put on a happy face and spend almost $3 million on a name change and facelift...that doesn't matter a plugged nickel because Pennsylvanians aren't allowed to buy our booze anywhere else.

Someone suggested that we should hold a mass civil booze disobedience march: a thousand citizens march across the Burlington-Bristol Bridge, get a bottle of booze at the new Roger Wilco, and march back. Are they going to arrest us? And if they do...could we finally take them to court and put a freakin' stake through the heart of a 76-year-old piece of code that should have been shitcanned decades ago? I'm about ready to start seriously thinking about it.

*Again, as I've said before, I hold no animus against Garces for this. It was brilliant, the place looks as cool as an October morning, and he'd have been plumb crazy not to take the PLCB up on it. Love the food, love Village Whiskey. Hate the PLCB for doing this. 


Unknown said...

Organize the march, Lew. Make it during Philly Beer Week and you'll have no problem getting 1000+ people to join in. Let's bring this stupid thing to a point where the legislature finally has to do something.

Darel Matthews said...

You think 1000 people would fit on the Burlington-Bristol Bridge? I imagine about 30 would accidentally get pushed over the side.

The Ben holds a greater impact, and the traffic snarl will certainly get their attention.

Just make sure everyone brings $3 to get back in to PA. New Jersey: the only state so bad they make you pay to leave.

Rich said...

Philly beer week would be great...but you really need to show up in Harrisburg and knock on the doors of the legislature.