There was a lot of sturm und drang in the first seven years, "Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing." The idiots in this case, of course, were the Republican members of the Pennsylvania Senate, led by the surprisingly obstructionist Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R-10), who managed to consistently thwart a clear majority for liquor privatization in the House, led by Speaker Mike Turzai.
|Me and King Dork|
Then came the election in 2014, and things changed, in a strange way. The GOP increased their legislative majority, but the party's abandonment of Tom "One Term Tommy" Corbett made that less useful by giving us Tom "One Term Tommy" Wolf (I really want "One Term Tommy" to become a Pennsylvania colloquialism for any Governor who fails to win a second term, no matter what their first name actually is). That upset the balance, but once the long budget logjam finally broke (a nasty defeat for King Dork), suddenly things happened.
|Lurking in the background; why is |
he still allowed to drink in PA?
They were, unfortunately, almost all things that McIlhinney wanted. Why does this man, this second-rate hack from Bucks County who's in a variety of pockets, get to rule over the liquor reform we've wanted for decades? The GOP put him there, and continues to leave him there, despite the way he thumbs his nose at the House majority and the Speaker on these issues.
|Yep: you can get the whole thing, or just one bottle.|
The sad thing is how excited we all are about this. We're whooping it up -- the Case Law is dead! We kin buy us wine at the Giant Eagle! -- so much that we don't even notice how sad it still is.
- We still aren't even up to "normal," let alone "world class." New Hampshire is still better off: lower prices, better State Store System (much much better), and wine in stores all over the place; New Jersey is much better off, Maryland, Delaware...we're finally a step ahead of Utah, and that's cause for celebration?
- Spirits haven't changed a bit, except for the flexible pricing that will soon be costing us more.
- And worst of all: the half-assed way that we finally were allowed to buy beer and wine at grocery stores -- by letting them buy one of the restricted number of tavern/restaurant licenses -- is causing the price of those licenses to skyrocket, as I warned here (I've warned about this for years). Over $500,000 for a liquor license, just for the piece of paper, so a Giant Market can sell sixpacks? That's putting small independent grocers out of the game (and likely out of business), and making it too expensive for restaurants to have a bar. Hope you like BYOB.
The Case Law is dead, and that's definitely progress. The changes for off-site and cross-license sales for Pennsylvania breweries/distilleries/wineries/cideries/meaderies are a tremendous opportunity (one the State Stores surely weren't delivering). And the 'zombie license' auction, even though it transparently benefits chain stores and the PLCB over everyone else, does, at least, free up some more licenses.
But we still have a long, long way to go.
We're not done till there's whiskey in private stores.
We're not done till they don't need a "cafe" to sell booze.
We're not done till the state's out of the retail and wholesale booze business.
We're not done till this whole thing gets sorted out.
And when we're done...what happens to the guys who got us through this stupid period? The GREAT sixpack shop owners and managers, the GREAT owners and managers of the exceptional beer distributors? You know, the folks who will now own a largely worthless business, as supermarkets and convenience stores undercut them relentlessly on prices, while inevitably shrinking selection (not completely, maybe, but it's never going to be their focus)?
What happens to all those State Store System employees, a significant number of which do a decent job at the register, and some of whom honestly do have a passion for what they're doing? Do they find new jobs? Do they open liquor stores?
What happens when the Legislature finally gets its gumption up and puts a real stake through the heart of this zombie relic of Repeal?
What then? WHAT THEN?
|Gun it! The Finish Line is in sight!|
So let's get going, let's keep going, and get this done. Don't slow down, don't listen to the last ditchers who will tell you "We have to give these changes a chance to work out!" No, actually, we don't. We can admit that they were a compromise that didn't need to be made. The time to change this is now, before we have another entrenched set of entitlements.
We've got the momentum. Let's finish this.