Actually, before we get to the little things...let's get to the big one: the police-enforced monopoly is still there. For no apparent reason other than to screw with us, there's nothing in here about allowing Pennsylvanians to pick up a bottle of wine on their way home from Baltimore, or New York, or work, for the large number who commute across the Delaware. That's right. Big Daddy in Harrisburg is still going to tell you where you can buy your booze: only in Pennsylvania. Sorry, gotta be blunt: that's un-American bullshit. Laws that tell me I'm not allowed to buy a bottle of gin and bring it home? Don't insult us: FIX THIS!
Now, those little details... The Corbett Plan gets rid of the Case Law, but does it by breaking it up into a bunch of ridiculous NEW limits that are going to have you carrying a card to remind you what you can buy where. The Inquirer explained it like this last week.
Under the plan, retail beer distributors, who now can only sell by the case or keg, could apply for a license to sell the alcohol trifecta: beer, wine, and liquor. Supermarkets could sell a customer up to two six-packs of beer, and up to six bottles of wine. Convenience stores and drugstores? A six-pack to go, no wine. Restaurants and taverns, which can now sell a customer no more than two six-packs of beer, could sell up to six bottles of wine. Big-box stores [Wal-Mart? Target? Home Depot?] would be allowed to sell beer by the case and up to six bottles of wine. In a nod to beer distributors, Corbett's plan would let them apply for "enhanced" licenses, allowing them - for the first time since Prohibition - to sell by the six-pack.Get all that? Doesn't it just make you want to ask WHY?! Governor, there is no good reason to put limits like this on retail. Just have a beer retail license, and a wine retail license, and allow stores to buy one, the other, or both. Done. And if I want to pay their prices, I go and buy as much or as little as I want. Don't make us do that foolish "buy two, step out, step back, buy two more" dance anymore, it's just ridiculous.
Worst of all, you're compromising with a group that doesn't exist. The social conservatives and MADD don't want supermarkets and convenience stores to sell any wine or beer, so limiting it to half a case and six bottles won't make them any more likely to support this -- or, more aptly, acquiesce to it -- they will hate the whole idea, and still vote no. And if you succeed without them, we'll be stuck with a compromise that did nothing. Drop it.
Jon Geeting of Keystone Politics is passionately progressive and fully supports privatization; we've discussed it and come to large amounts of agreement. He's written some great stuff here and here, and here, where he argues that Corbett's plan is not radical enough, that it needs LESS regulation to open up MORE competition. (That's my kind of Progressive!) He's also in on a gallonage tax to replace the price-based Johnstown Flood Tax, which is another good idea: it makes cheap booze (also known as "wino fuel") more expensive, which would actually do something in the direction of, you know...control.
But I do like some things. Quite a bit, actually. Like this:
- The State Stores go away, and the State is no longer the wholesaler! Which means we start to have a LOT more input on what's available for sale.
- Taxes don't change. So unlike Washington's greed-driven failure, our prices don't automatically go up (which would be blamed on privatization).
- Beer and wine sold in grocery stores. Look, I love my beer distributor. Actually, quite a few of them. Great guys, and they've supplied us with great beer. But...it's a LOT easier to buy beer and wine in the grocery store. Easy = good.
- Beer distributors can become all-alcohol stores. And I hope they do. Because I LOVE all-alc stores like Total Wine, and Canal's, and Bev-Mo, and Binny's. Huge selection, smart staff, great extras, full-on booze coolness. I like small specialty places like Park Avenue and Federal and Moore Bros., too: excellent service, the exclusive bottlings only they get. It will take an investment in space and stock and smarts...but it will be worth it.
- The number of licenses to sell off-premise spirits doubles. It could be a lot better, but double is pretty good. I'd like to see it double again, but for now...it's one hell of an improvement.
- Annual license fees. Because having the State issue the license and someone else make the money drives me crazy. It still costs the licensee, but the State gets it.