Say goodbye to those wine kiosks

Jim Seibert and Kortney Zerphy ponder the wine selection at a Wegmans in Mechanicsburg. The dispensing area is equipped with a breath analyzer.
Jim Seibert and Kortney Zerphy ponder the wine selection at a Wegmans in Mechanicsburg. The dispensing area is equipped with a breath analyzer. (EVAN TROWBRIDGE / Staff)
Posted: September 20, 2011

HARRISBURG - Those now infamous wine kiosks in supermarkets are officially going dark.

The state Liquor Control Board is literally pulling the plug on the kiosk program because of a dispute over money with the Conshohocken-based contractor that provided the 10-foot high machines, which required customers to blow into Breathalyzers before making a purchase.

The way the kiosk program worked: Simple Brands L.L.C. was to provide the machines at no cost to the state but would share in the proceeds. The LCB contends it was to be reimbursed for any expenses it incurred, such as for stocking or wiring the kiosks.

That has not happened, according to the liquor control board. And the expenses top $1 million.

In the past, Simple Brands has countered that the state agency had incurred unnecessary expenses and improperly billed them to Simple Brands. One example the company cited: The board charged $184,888 for various kiosk-related hardware and software, including 97 routers, plus maintenance, during a period when only three wine kiosks were up and running.

Another example it gave: The board charged $30,000 so it could hire an outside consultant to ensure that Simple Brands was encrypting data from customers' credit cards even after the company had spent much of its own money doing so.

Under the contract, the LCB pays Simple Brands 50 cents for every bottle sold, and must lease space for the machines and monitor them by video link. Customers pay an added $1 fee on every transaction that goes to the company. Simple Brands also hoped to make money by selling advertising on the machines.


Contact Inquirer staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934, acouloumbis@phillynews.com or @AngelasInk on Twitter.

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