Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why is it that....

The PLCB advertises even though they have no competition. There is no such thing as shopping for the best price; there's only the PLCB price. And of course...forget about shopping for selection. If they don't have it, you don't need it. Or want it. You may think you do...but they think better.

The PLCB limits how many bars and restaurants can serve alcohol, and while very few places are under their quota, there isn't a quota for State Stores. We are nowhere near what a normal state would have for liquor stores (and normal for wine retailers is so far away we can't even see it from here). In fact, the number of State Stores has been steadily decreasing for the past 45 years from over 750 to the current 605, and has only held steady the past two years.

The PLCB has no paper trail that lists who came up with in-house brands, who made the decision to feature them on endcaps, who decided to push them in advertising, and who said to feature them as alternatives when doing searches on the website? Do they know what they are doing at all? (Does any of it have to do with the continuing trail of ethics violations?)

The PLCB never lists any proof for the sales increases "modernization" supposedly will bring. Tell us exactly how opening another 140 stores on Sunday will generate $22 million more in operating income, or how just opening stores quicker will add $25 million more? Tell us what states will join in the booze-buying consortium being proposed? Have they even been approached about it? (Wanna bet there's no paper trail?) Tell us how the PLCB will make $75 million more if allowed to set pricing? Who will decide what the pricing will be, what will the change be based on, who will have oversight, who will look out for the consumer's interest (it never has been the folks in Harrisburg so don't expect them to suddenly start now),

The PLCB hasn't said whether a six-bottle container of 750ml bottles of Belgian Trappist brew will be a "case" too under their new "interpretation." It is over 144 ounces after all.  What about 6 bottles of beer that are only available in 700 ml bottles? Will there be a special "interpretation" for those if somebody decides to sue and the PLCB is too lazy to support their 80 years of apparently wrong "interpretation" like what happened in the latest "interpretation" that allowed 12 packs? And why can't the Legislature get off its butt and just do away with the case law entirely?

The PLCB ranks 15th worst out of 17 control states for binge drinking rates and is in the bottom half of all states, tied for 31st place. Why? Because "control states" like PA don't really control anything. The total alcohol use for control states averages higher (2.46 gallons per capita consumption in gallons, based on population age 14 and older) than the U.S. average of 2.33.

The PLCB's plans to increase sales are "good," but if the system were normalized, and a retailer wanted to increase alcohol sales...that would then be "bad?" Is private alcohol chemically different from PLCB alcohol? It's the same tax rate.

The PLCB and its pitiful handful of supporters somehow manage to overcome all of these issues, and continue to monopolize liquor and wine sales in the commonwealth. Kinda makes you wonder what keeps the Legislature from cleaning this up.


Anonymous said...

You state that beer distributors are not permitted to advertise price. That is simply not true. I received Valpak ad with sale prices listed. The MBDA states on their website that beer distributors may advertise price.

Albert Brooks said...

I'm not sure what to say. From the Liquor Code SECTION 4-498. Unlawful advertising (2):

(2) No licensee may distribute, by mail, personally or through servants, agents or employees, price lists,circulars or handbills off the licensed premises to the general public as a means of advertising liquor, wine or malt or brewed beverages.

While I don't look at the MBDA website too often I did have a quick look and didn't find the section you mention that allows off premise advertising. If you could post the link I'd appreciate it.

Lew Bryson said...

Looks like this is just another example of the Code not really saying what it means. Here's how the PLCB explained it to licensees:

Also, while section 498(e)(2) of the Liquor Code prohibits the distribution by mail of price lists, circulars or handbills to the general public as a means of advertising liquor, wine or malt or brewed beverages [47 P.S. § 4-498(e)(2)], the Liquor Code does not define the terms “circular” or “mailing.” However, Webster’s II New College Dictionary (1999) defines “circular” as a “printed advertisement, directive or notice for mass distribution,” and “mailing” is defined as “a batch of mail sent at one time by a mailer.” For purposes of clarity and uniformity, the Board has interpreted the terms “circular,” “price list,” and “handbill” to mean any form of “unsolicited” advertising. Nevertheless, please note that the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office has determined that this prohibition does not prevent a licensee from advertising in a newspaper or community newspaper.

Thanks for bringing it up. We'll fix that.

Albert Brooks said...

Thanks for the correction but it does point out the idiocy of having the laws "interpreted" rather than codified.