Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Senator Rafferty Comes Out Swinging

I have no time to blog about this -- working feverishly on PA Breweries 4 -- but big news yesterday in Harrisburg: State Senator John C. Rafferty (Montgomery-R) held a "rally" for reforming PA's beer laws, the main aim being to allow six-pack sales in grocery stores, convenience stores, and distributors. Read about it here, here (one of Karen Heller's best columns), and most of all here, in Rafferty's own talking points memo (this is a PDF, just to warn you). I'll be back to talk about this when I'm done with the book.

Two things, though. First, thanks to Stan Sheetz, CEO of the PA-based convenience store chain, for really pushing this issue. Second, to the distributors and six-pack store owners and employees who stand to face competition and possibly job losses from this issue: this day was bound to come. Instead of burning your time, money, and customer goodwill by fighting it in courts or the press, step up and compete. Cooperate to get the best possible bill for yourselves. Here's a plan: go for the package store system they have in Massachusetts. Instead of just "fixing" beer sales, do away with the State Store System and make beer distributors eligible to be "all-alcohol" stores, and that's where people buy their booze, from private stores, supplied by privately-owned wholesalers or directly from the suppliers. How's that sound? Radical, hey?

Double-posted to Seen Through A Glass.


Jim L. said...

I would even settle for distributors being able to sell singles and six-packs. That way they still get to keep their slice of the pie and consumers get more choice.

Lewis said...

Hi Lew,

I'm all for deregulation, but this state is unique in that citizens can go to the distributor directly and buy beer. Can't do that in any other state to my knowledge. Sheetz or any other store in PA still has to go and get beer from the distributor. Won't beer sales at other stores close down that distributor access point? The only way to make it fair is to have breweries sell directly to the shop or consumer bypassing a distributor. Is any of this being taken into consideration?

Lew Bryson said...

Lewis (at last, someone else who spells it right!),

I think there might be some misunderstanding due to PA's odd words for things. The "distributor" is the retailer. The wholesaler is a separate license. Origlio Beverage, for instance, is a big Philly wholesaler (who I do business with: I write for their newsletters -- full disclosure), but you can't go to their warehouse and buy beer. They sell beer by the truckload to distributors, who then sell the cases to you. You can, however, also buy beer directly from the brewer in PA, provided the brewer chooses to sell it retail; not all do. And some wholesalers also operate a retail ("distributor") license, usually as a separate, often family-related business, which adds to the confusion.

Sheetz and the grocery stores buy their beer from the wholesaler (or from the brewers that do self-distribution; Philadelphia Brewing, for instance, is self-distributed), not from the distributors.

Lewis said...

Didn't know that it worked that way in PA. You're right, the distributor name is misleading. Let's pass the law, then the wholesaler becomes the only layer left to peel between me and my beer!