Anyway, we were not far from Villanova, and about once a week we'd get some kid in who'd walk around, look confused, and finally walk up and ask where we had the sixpacks for sale. I was usually relieved, because this meant we wouldn't have to go through the bullshit of "What? I left my ID in the car!" (as if anyone ever really does that) or "Look at me, man, I'm 21!" Instead, I'd just say, "Sorry, we can't sell sixpacks; this is Pennsylvania. You'll have to go to a bar." And the look on their faces was always so worth it: jaw-dropped, flat-out, 'Say frickin' what?!'
Sad part is, they were right. It's ridiculous, but in Pennsylvania, when you go to a beer store*, you can't buy one bottle, you can't buy a four-pack, you can't buy a six-pack, an eight-pack, a nine-pack, a 12-pack, or even an 18-pack. Cuz that's illegal. You have to buy a case. Unless, of course, you really want to buy less, in which case you can go to a tavern (or a place with a so-called "deli license"), where you can buy a six-pack, or a 12-pack, or two six-packs...but no more than that. Cuz that's illegal.
Say frickin' what?!
The Case Law Has No Reason To Live
Here it is, in all its dopey glory (The Almighty Liquor Code, Article IV, SECTION 441):
DISTRIBUTORS’ AND IMPORTING DISTRIBUTORS’ RESTRICTIONS ON SALES, STORAGE, ETC., paragraph b: No distributor*or importing distributor* shall sell any malt or brewed beverages in quantities of less than a case or original containers containing one hundred twenty-eight ounces or more which may be sold separately: Provided, That no malt or brewed beverages sold or delivered shall be consumed upon the premises of the distributor or importing distributor, or in any place provided for such purpose by such distributor or importing distributor. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section or act, malt or brewed beverages which are part of a tasting conducted pursuant to the board's regulations may be consumed on licensed premises.The scary thing is, the bare bones of the Case Law aren't all of it. For instance, the two six-pack limit in the bar? What most of the six-pack shops in places like State College won't tell you when they're telling you that you are only allowed to buy two six-packs...is that you can then step outside the door of the licensed premises, step back in, and legally buy two more (assuming you'd want to pay bar mark-up on a case).
Want a really weird one? Check this out. Used to be, if a case at a distributor's* got damaged, like if the pallet jack caught the corner or someone dropped a case, the remnants of the case could be combined with another damaged case and sold, a "mixed" case. Big deal, right? Well, check this out from Paragraph f from the same section of The Almighty Liquor Code:
So...some distributors were "damaging" cases and combining them, because customers had gotten so interested in trying different beers (and not wanting to buy a whole damned case at a time of ONE). Big flippin' deal, right? Wrong. This practice scared and pissed somebody so much that just 13 years ago, they managed to get The Almighty Liquor Code changed to specifically outlaw it. (The legislator who put it in there retired; last I heard he was lobbying for the health care industry.) That's crazy, that's not just stupid, that's plain mean-spirited.
(1) To salvage one or more salable cases from one or more damaged cases, cartons or packages of malt or brewed beverages, a distributor or importing distributor may repackage consequent to inadvertent damage and sell a case, carton or package of identical units of malt or brewed beverages.
(2) Repackaging is permissible only to the extent made necessary by inadvertent damage. Repackaging not consequent to damage is prohibited.
(3) The term _identical units_ as used in this subsection means undamaged bottles or cans of identical brand, package and volume. (added May 31, 1996, P.L.312, No.49)
Why do we even have this uniquely stupid law? It originated in Repeal. It was part of a model law written up by the beer wholesalers and presented to the Legislature after Repeal; they figured that they'd try to get what they wanted in Repeal by saving the legislators the work of writing law. They put the case law in there to increase sales and decrease work: nobody's got to break up a case, and you have to buy at least a case at a time (and you had to pay cash on both sides of the transaction, too). The State went for it (with all the other dumb shit they put in The Almighty Liquor Code, are you surprised?).
But why is it still there, over 70 years later, when Pennsylvanians almost uniformly hate it? I've seen results of a poll asking Pennsylvania voters about a variety of issues: over 80% of them said they'd like to see the case law go away. MADD doesn't want it, Bible-thumpers don't care about it. So why has the Legislature fiddled and diddled with a variety of ways to change the case law but never yet done a damned thing?
What's that? Money must be involved? Aren't you the smart one! Bar owners don't want the case law to change because they've got a monopoly on six-pack sales. Some people have made the investment in a bar license just to sell six-packs. Distributors don't want to rock the boat: selling six-packs would mean completely re-designing their stores, putting in coolers and maybe carpet (most distributors' stores have all the charm of a garage). And everyone in the business is sure that breaking the case law will mean beer sales in supermarkets.
As a beer buyer, you're probably asking what the down side for you is on all this. The answer would be, not much, although it is an unknown. There is a chance that six-pack sales would change the draft beer scene, that six-pack sales would change the dynamics that keep small distributors in business, that they might even make it harder for craft brewers to stay in the market (though I think that last one is pretty iffy). But balance that against being able to buy beer like normal people: as little or as much as you want.
This is not actually a Reason to Abolish the PLCB. This is not an issue central to its existence. But take a look up there at the description of the blog: One person's reasons why the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board should be abolished, and The Almighty Liquor Code completely overhauled and rewritten... This is certainly one bit of The Almighty Liquor Code that needs to be re-written. Therefore...
The Almighty Liquor Code should be re-written to do away with all restrictions on beer sales by amount. No more case law, no more two six-pack limit, no more no re-packing cases. And when we get rid of it, let's have no deals, no complicated balancing acts, no bullshit. Just excise that part of the code. And when it comes to sales and percentages, let the individual businesses compete on their merits, and how well they serve the customers' needs.
Simple. Radical. Do it now, we can get around to the abolishing later.
*In Pennsylvania, we call the beer stores "distributors." You know, the place that sells cases of beer, because that's the only quantity they're allowed to? I don't know why they're called that.