Ex-LCB chief: Sell the state stores

Posted: August 03, 2011

MOMENTUM continued to build yesterday for dismantling the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, with its former chairman blasting the "inherently wrong" government monopoly and endorsing the latest push to privatize the wine-and-spirits industry.

"We don't want to be bootleggers," Jonathan Newman said during an appearance at the Wine School in Center City. "We don't want to have to be criminals, going into Delaware and New Jersey and purchasing product illegally."

Newman, who chaired the LCB from 2002 until 2007 and now sells wine to out-of-state retailers, pounced on a recent state audit showing that inventory mismanagement forced the agency to store tens of thousands of cases of booze in nontemperature-controlled trailers.

"This is a function that should be left to private industry," he said.

Newman appeared alongside House Majority Leader Mike Turzai and other lawmakers who want to auction off liquor licenses to reduce prices and improve selection.

Polls show that more than two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support privatization, and Gov. Corbett wants to get the state out of the liquor business.

"I think the stars are perfectly aligned," Newman said.

The LCB was created in 1933, as Prohibition was ending, to make the purchase of alcohol expensive and inconvenient.

Jon Myerow, owner of the Tria wine bars, said the agency is still hurting his customers today. "Doing business with the state is very difficult," said Myerow, at yesterday's event. "We have to charge higher prices than other states."

LCB spokeswoman Stacey Witalec said the inventory issues in the audit have been corrected. There's no evidence that wine or liquor spoiled in the trailers, she said.

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