Debate set on privatizing Pa. liquor, wine sales

Posted: June 12, 2012

HARRISBURG - Debate on a bill to privatize Pennsylvania's state-run wine and liquor stores is set to begin today in the House of Representatives - and it's bound to be a lengthy one.

House members will consider a revamped plan of getting the state out of the business of selling wine and hard liquor. The new proposal comes with a twist - it would also change the way beer, already a private industry, is sold in Pennsylvania.

The plan, championed by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), calls for issuing 1,600 licenses, the first 1,050 of which would be offered to beer distributors, who under current law can sell only beer, and only by the case - or keg.

The remaining licenses would be auctioned off, on a county-by-county basis, to the highest bidders.

The plan also would, for the first time, let beer distributors sell six-packs - or any other configuration, such as an 18-pack - with no limit on the number of packages sold in a single transaction. As it stands now, consumers can only buy six-packs at bars, delis, or taverns (usually at a steep markup), and no more than two at a time.

Despite public support, not to mention the backing of Gov. Corbett, the bill faces an uphill battle. Critics include those in the legislature who say alcohol should be tightly controlled and union supporters who worry that LCB employees will lose good-paying jobs.

There is also disagreement on whether it makes financial sense to scrap the current system, which provides reliable revenue for the state.

The debate on Turzai's bill is expected to last several days.

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

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