June 24, 2016
"BREAKING: SIX-PACKS APPROVED FOR SALE AT PENNSYLVANIA GAS STATIONS!" - Headline on Gov. Wolf's blog WITH THAT, Pennsylvania, your beer laws have finally entered the 20th century. And, yes, I do mean last century, for despite the screaming caps, last month's approval is both meaningless and illustrative of the small thinking that accompanies liquor regulation in this state. For starters, the approval applies only to nine gas stations statewide, and most are in the boondocks, so . . . next time you are in Mahanoy City, fill 'er up!
June 14, 2016 |
HARRISBURG - Wine on supermarket shelves. Beer sold in 12-packs. Sunday liquor purchases. Is this really Pennsylvania? Last week's enactment of a law that will let hundreds of stores add by-the-bottle wine sales was the latest in a slow drip of efforts by lawmakers and regulators to loosen the state's long-derided grip on its system of alcohol control, and nudge the Keystone State into the 21st century. What remains to be seen is whether the changes will be enough, for now, to quell the advocates who have called for turning over the system to private enterprise, or whether it will, instead, just speed the momentum in that direction.
April 15, 2016 |
It's just before midnight on a Thursday when they straggle into the hushed lobby of the Rittenhouse Hotel, many bleary-eyed from their restaurant shifts, each toting a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. Upstairs in Lacroix's private dining room, these servers and sommeliers gather around a long table, pouring their wines into decanters and arranging their spit cups. After a few stifled yawns, the group is primed for a deep dive into this week's theme: domestic reds. Led by Justin Timsit, the hotel's wine director, and his assistant sommelier, Samantha Germani, more than a dozen participants from some of the city's top restaurants - Volver, Serpico, Fork - take turns trying to identify the wines based on appearance, aroma, and taste.
March 17, 2016
AS a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I've recently attended public hearings on Gov. Tom Wolf's 2016-17 state budget plan, learning about the fiscal health of commonwealth agencies. I was particularly pleased to hear that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board sold a record-setting $2.34 billion in wine and spirits in fiscal year 2014-15. However, to ensure the agency keeps growing sales, the PLCB has agreed with House Democrats that we must make the state system more convenient for customers.
March 7, 2016 |
The Tria cafes remain among the city's best destinations to go exploring the most unfamiliar reaches of the wine world. And my most recent Tria-inspired vino-fatuation is the Austrian grape called Blaufränkisch, a thick-skinned and late-ripening red (also called Lemberger, which has been used with some success in Pennsylvania) that has the weight of pinot noir, lush fruit notes, an earthy framework, and mouthwatering acidity that's versatile with food. Of course, for additional wonk factor, Tria's Blaufränkisch comes from Kobal, a biodynamic vineyard in Slovenia, which Tria wine director Michael McCaulley says is lighter than some Austrian counterparts, with a lingering spice that tastes like paprika.
October 26, 2015
Charlie Mooney had his white notebook binder with him, complete with a revenue analysis chart. Mooney is not a high-flying CEO, or a bean counter from Wall Street. He is director of retail operations at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which runs the 604 Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores in the state. State stores have long been despised for limited selection, high prices, and poor service. But Mooney uses such terms as "rebranding" and "consumer-friendly" in describing the state's effort since 2010 to revamp the stores to boost sales and fend off privatization, which continues to be a goal of the GOP-run legislature.
September 4, 2015 |
Expect more. Pay less. Then drink and be merry. Target's neighbor in Center City's Market East neighborhood will be a jumbo-sized wine and spirits shop, as the area's growing base of residents and restaurants stokes the demand for booze. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board members voted in August to lease space near 11th and Chestnut Streets beside the future Target, spokesman Shawn Kelly said Wednesday. The Fine Wine and Good Spirits shop will occupy about 14,000 square feet of ground floor and basement space in a mixed-use development now under construction by Brickstone Cos., said Larry Steinberg, a senior vice president at real estate brokerage CBRE.
March 9, 2015
YOU KNOW all those lawyer jokes? Forget 'em. Starting today, Pennsylvania beer drinkers can buy a 12-pack at a beer distributor, thanks to a loophole in state liquor code discovered by a sharp-eyed lawyer. Elsewhere in America - in New Jersey, for example - purchasing a 12-pack is no big deal. But since the end of Prohibition, Pennsylvania, distributors have been forbidden to sell anything less than a case of 24 12-ounce bottles or a "single container" (namely, a keg) holding 128 ounces.
January 30, 2015
IT'S NICE to be recognized. And it's even nicer to recognize what you've already got. If this first month of 2015 is any indication, this will shape up to be the year of the flattering mention, with national publications blaring their editorial trumpets in favor of fair Philadelphia. The New York Times stuck us at No. 3 on its list of "52 Places to Go in 2015. " We beat out a bunch of stateside and worldwide destinations, edged only by Milan, Italy, and Cuba - not that it's a competition.
July 18, 2014
WANT TO open a bar in Pennsylvania and avoid the standard six-figure price tag for a liquor license? The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, through its extraordinarily lenient interpretation of the state liquor code, lets you do it for as little as $500. All it takes is a one-page application with none of the lengthy red tape and criminal background checks applicants normally face. The discount license is an unforeseen product of a 2012 liquor code amendment crafted by the Legislature to make it easier for licensees to cater one-day private events.