Making a Big Step Toward Liquor Privatization
In a bipartisan 157-31 vote, the House approved a Senate-amended plan to sell wine in grocery stores, increase opportunities for the sale of beer, and improve consumer convenience for overall liquor sales.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill, House Bill 1690, into law on June 8. This move toward privatization represents the most significant action in getting government out of the liquor business in Pennsylvania in the last 80 years.
Help With State Budget Revenues
Revenue is generated for the Commonwealth (approximately $150 million) through license fees and permits to sell wine through Wine Expanded permit fees.
What This Bill Does
This step is an important first step toward liquor privatization in Pennsylvania. Here are the changes that will come about as part of this particular bill.
Selling Wine in Private Sector Outlets
Businesses with Restaurant licenses will be able to purchase permits to sell up to four bottles of wine to go.
• Creates wine expanded permits for restaurants and hotels – including gas stations,
grocery stores and “six-pack shops,” enabling them to sell four bottles (3,000 mL)
of wine to go.
• Current licensees holding a restaurant or hotel license will have the ability to obtain a
permit to sell wine to go. The initial permit fee is $2,000 and the renewal fee is equal to
2 percent of the cost of wine purchased from the board for off-premise consumption.
• Pennsylvania residents could have wine shipped to their homes by Pennsylvania Liquor
Control Board-licensed vendors. Small wineries could sell liquor and malt and brewed beverages.
Expanding Wine and Beer Outlets
• Expired License Auctions
• Allows dead restaurant licenses to be auctioned by the PLCB once a year to the highest bidder
with the minimum bid set at $25,000.
Consumer Convenience Reforms
• If the Liquor Control Board permits, more state stores may open on Sundays and holidays the
board may also change the hours of operation. Previously, these were decisions through an act
of the legislature.
• Allows the board more flexibility to set pricing, but it must justify pricing through annual reports. The
board must also publish wholesale and retail prices quarterly.
• Lottery tickets may now be available at state stores.
• Customer special orders will be permissible as long as the provider is a licensed importer or vendor.
Additional fees may be assessed by the board and the importer/vendor.
• Casinos will now be able to sell beer and wine at all hours, every day.
House Majority Leader Dave Reed Shares the Details of the Bill
For ANY bill to become law, we have the Rule of Numbers: we need at least 102 people in the House, 26 people in the Senate and one governor to agree on something.
This new law will meet some public expectations while moving toward more private sales of wine. In fact, it is the biggest change to the state’s system since the end of Prohibition. House Republicans will still be working toward full privatization.
The current state-run liquor system in Pennsylvania was created in 1933 by then-Gov. Gifford Pinchot, who said the PA Liquor Control Board's mission was to make liquor sales “as inconvenient and expensive as possible.”
Currently only two states, Pennsylvania and Utah, have complete control over wholesale and retail operations.