Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reason #1 -- We're Adults

Oh, where to begin?

I knew when I started this that the tough part would be picking the first reason to abolish the PLCB. Should it be the government retail monopoly, or the crap selection, or the loss of revenue to bordering states, or the 18% Emergency Tax, or the lack of service to retail accounts, or the costs of the State Store system, or the licensing system... The list just goes on and on, and they're all terrible.

But when you get down to the root of it, the base cause and source of the problems with the PLCB is that it reeks of the patronizing attitude of do-gooders. We, the itty-bitty wittle citizens of the Commonwealth, just can't handle our liquor -- or wine -- so the State has to do that for us.

Reason #1 on why the PLCB should be abolished:

We deserve to be treated like adults.

Just look at the name of the organization: the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. They are in place to control our access to booze*, to control the price of it, to control where and when we can buy it, to control who makes all the money off the sale of it, to control what kinds of booze we're allowed to have**. The state's Liquor Code even controls our choice to buy booze out of state; although the liquor stores right across the border may be closer, may have better prices, better selections, better service, better stores, we are not allowed to buy booze there and bring it home. If we do, the State will -- if they can -- arrest us, fine us, seize the booze and destroy it.

The PLCB's not Big Brother: it's Daddy.

I've often said, in reference to various liquor laws (but most often Pennsylvania's), all I want is to be treated like an adult. Don't tell me I can't have a beer because it's got a picture of Santa on the label, don't tell me I can't buy booze on a Sunday, don't tell me I can only buy two sixpacks at a time in a bar and no sixpacks in a beer store, and don't tell me that the State has to control the sale of booze because otherwise I'd go crazy with it.

Don't tell me that, because it's pure D horseshit. Maryland doesn't control it, I can buy a bottle of rye whiskey in a drugstore (and I have, by God), and the Free State† seems to have a pleasantly civilized populace. New Jersey doesn't control it, and in the months I spent researching New Jersey Breweries I didn't see any evidence of a state that was drinking itself to ruin.

This is, we're told over and over, a free country. I once heard a priest ask in a July 4th homily "Is any one of us truly free?" and I was so irked I still remember it bitterly. Yes, within the responsibilities I have undertaken and the accountability honor and law require, by my lights I am free. Just the fact that I'm writing this blog, an opinion, openly stated, against the laws of the State, proves that to some degree.

If we're free, how does the State get away with telling us where we can buy booze? What's so dangerous about booze -- compared to other dangerous things like cars, guns, propane, cigarettes, diesel fuel and ammonia fertilizer, power tools, gasoline, and horny goat weed -- that the State forbids private citizens to sell it? It's pure bluenosed patrician elitism, a ludicrous hangover from Prohibition and Repeal, an attitude that should have been washed away years ago.

The PLCB should be abolished because it assumes the citizens of Pennsylvania are incompetent to handle their own affairs: a deadly insult to our honor and intelligence in a democratic nation. We deserve laws about booze that rightly assume adult citizens will drink responsibly, as the majority of drinkers do.

More to come.

*I'm going to refer to liquor and wine where interchangeable as "booze." Usually I refer to beer separately in this blog's context because of the division imposed by the state's two retail regimes, but I'll sometimes use "booze" to refer to all three because I like it better than "alcohol beverages," and a lot better than "alcoholic beverages."

**Note to the PLCB: two of the reasons I started this blog was because you stopped carrying Connemara Irish whiskey, and you stopped carrying Elijah Craig 12 year old in 750 ml bottles. Shouldn't have done that...

†"This nickname originated in an article written by Hamilton Owens, the editor or the Baltimore Sun. In 1923, a Georgia Congressman, William D. Upshaw, attacked Maryland as a traitor to the union because it never passed a State enforcement act supporting Prohibition. Hamilton Owens' article, "The Maryland Free State" was a mocking response to Mr. Upshaw, suggesting that Maryland should secede from the Union before acting to prohibit the sale of liquor. This article was never published but Mr. Owens referred to Maryland as "The Free State" in later editorials."

I love footnotes...


TC said...

Hear, hear. Honestly, I didn't know it was flat illegal to go down to State Line Liquors for wine, beer, and whiskey. I just thought I was doing it for the better selection, the price, and the joy of chatting up the experts down there (instead of the part timers in PA just doing it for the paycheck).

Now I'm gonna be all nervous driving across state lines with two cases of 750ml bottles of nectar in my trunk. Thanks a lot, Lew.

Keep up the good fight.

Lew Bryson said...

Keep up the good fight.

To quote the never-tiring Hillary, "I'm in it to win it."

Steve said...

Atta' boy Lew. Nice work. "Give me Elijah Craig or Give Me Death!"

Lew Bryson said...

Oh, they're gonna regret that, Steve. I just started this thing yesterday, and I've got the media calling me already. Gimme a place to stand and a big lever...

Harry Spade said...

I was really hoping for an "All of the above" option on the poll... I've long had the dream of a beer truck stopping on my street and offering all the local brews.

I'm all for this project Lew. Get the state out of retail, for crying out loud. I love Pennsylvania, but our government seems hopelessly out of touch with reality.

How 'bout some tips on who to start pestering? State reps? Bureaucrats? I'm game.

Lew Bryson said...

"All of the above" would have won in a landslide! I wanted to force you to choose.

About the pestering...I don't think that's going to work, at least not at this stage. There aren't enough people pissed off yet. We've got a lot of educating to do. Newman made it harder by working within the system: there's some perceived satisfaction, just because things aren't as bad as they were. But they still suck.

So. Get 'em mad. Then aim them.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought of you when I saw this earlier today:

It is much more appropriate in this venue.

Good luck with your quest.

Lew Bryson said...

Wow. That is...amazing. Thank you! Gotta blog that one.

Kevin said...

Thank you in advance for doing this. I know that this blog will get people's attention and hopefully get the tides of change moving.

PS - I heard the the PLCB is getting a team of lawyers together to draft up a cease-and-desist letter because you are using their logo on this page but you didn't hear that from me.

Lew Bryson said...

I'm waiting for that letter, Kevin, and when I get it, I'm going to take the logo down and put a scan of the letter up instead.

Anonymous said...


If I ever see you in a bar, I will have absolutely no choice but to buy you a drink. It is rare to see somebody tackle a serious cause and do so in an absolutely hilarious manner.

Very well done.

Anonymous said...

Excellent stuff Lew

Tom Mariano

Anna van Schurman said...

"New England Style" package stores only apply to a few states. New Hampshire, where I'm from has state liquor stores. But somehow they manage it so that people from the other states go there to get their liquor. (I once worked for a marketing research firm and made phone calls to people in MA, CT, and RI who came to NH for their booze.)

Lew Bryson said...

True, Anna. I was mostly thinking of Mass and Maine when I wrote that, although I went to packies in CT when I lived there, too. I just like the idea. The one thing I hate about buying booze at a supermarket is that they're just never as good as a specialty store...well, hardly ever. It's like buying cheese from a cheesemonger vs. a supermarket; yeah, the super has "Stilton," but it's kept at 45 degrees and smothered in shrink-wrap. I would actually prefer a lot of package stores to supermarket sales...but that's just me.

frank said...

Lew, I love the new blog. You can count me in for the fight. Meanwhile, I'm off to NJ for some wine.

Anna van Schurman said...

Re: packies vs grocery stores. I lived in L.A. for 15 years. Buying booze at the grocery store was great for a quick party run or if you were cooking with booze. But there were plenty of specialty stores that offered the variety you seek. So maybe California could be the model. (Or Wegman's. I hardly think of buying cheese at Wegmans as buying cheese in the grocery store. Let's make Wegman's the model.)

Anonymous said...

Wegmans is a fantastic model. I just picked up Stone IRS, some Bear Republic stuff, a bottle of local NJ wine for my fiancee, some very good sausage for dinner, and grabbed some decent sushi for lunch.

Any place where I can do all of that has got my vote to be in every town in America.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Las Vegas for 13 years. Nothing bad happened when people were allowed to buy a bottle with their loaf of bread. If anythuing the option to do so was nice. Little did I realize how spoiled I was until I moved to NY state in my mid 20s. If someone really wants to get a fix then there is relatively little anyone can do to stop them.
I also lived in Sweden as an exchange student nearly 15 years ago and I recall the same argument about buying wine in the markets then as well. If I remember correctly one place did try sell wine but the police confiscated the bottles as they were sold.

Anonymous said...

Wegman's would be a great model, but all people can say about beer sales in Wegman's is something along the lines of..."all the kids working in them will let their 16 yr old friends walk out with whatever they want."

That mentality pisses me off because as a 31-yr-old customer, what does that have to do with me??? Believe it or not you can still go to some bars in this state underage, drink, and never be carded. So what!

Anyway, its up to the goddamn store to hire responsible people who respect alcohol to manage the selling of it by the cashiers. If you are a store and can only afford to hire kids, then you shouldn't be allowed to sell booze, because you don't respect the sales of alcohol enough. Pay higher wages which will attract older workers!

If an individual employee gets caught for allowing underage sales, make them pay the fine, fire them, or both! Then move on.

Fear of underage access, or "worst-case scenerio" tactics are NOT good enough reasons to outlaw booze sales in stores.

The PLCB spends too much time trying to stop underage drinking.

Tangent: Maybe the State should consider lowering the legal age, because the way our area highways are repeatedly dug up in the same places, every year like clockwork, holding up citizens for hours, surely can't reflect the most efficient way to utilize the federal highway money received. My point is PA doesn't need that money because what do they have to show for it? More backups and roads torn up by trucks so bad I can't keep my car driving straight when I'm sober [lol]. I am tired of routine 2 or 3-hour backups on I-95 and I-476 because a PENNdot crew of five is standing around watching one guy change a lamp bulb, or a letter on a sign and decided they needed all lanes but one in order to acheive this. And in the middle of the day, or at 8-9pm on Fridays in the summer?? Why?? Such a waste of my burns up all my gas...ruins cars just idling like that. Causes air pollution too.

Lew Bryson said...

Not a tangent at all: I think the PLCB does spend too much time on underage drinking. More specifically, I think they could find better ways to spend their time on stopping underage drinking. Lowering the drinking age would be one: 18 year olds are adults, and we waste far too much effort and money on trying to stop them from behaving like adults. The results are far from clear, too...but that's not my direct point.

It's this: why not try rewards instead of punishments? For every confiscated false ID, the clerk and the store owner each get $500 (or $100, or $200, whatever) from the state. That's a positive incentive, something underage clerks can understand. Actually...there wouldn't be any underage clerks if we lowered the LDA: PA already requires you to be 18 to handle and sell booze, just leave that in place. Adults selling to adults, and if 16 year olds try to buy illegally, there's a $500 incentive to catch them. There's an idea.

Anonymous said...

After reading all of these "reasons" to abolish the PLCB, I can't help but notice they are all stem from a whiny, selfish point of view. It is ironic how you can claim to be an adult yet at the same time make, not only derogatory, but wildly opinionated remarks that do not actually contribute to the debate.

Anyone that stumbles across this blog should realize that his opinions (clearly stated at the top of the blog) are NOT facts and should seek actual intelligent debate elsewhere. Furthermore, it is quite evident by the comment moderation that only one-sided comments are posted on this blog, and if this post is published it would be the first since its creation in support of the PLCB.

Alcohol consumption is a luxury- not a birthright.

Lew Bryson said...

That's funny. Almost as funny as you being dopey enough to leave exactly the same comment on three different posts. And posting as "Anonymous," that's pretty funny too.

The only comments I don't allow are spam, and the ones that are obscene; there have been one or two, but not many. Everything else, I allow. Again, it's funny to me how so many people who write something that disagrees with a post here (or on my other two blogs) assumes that I won't post it. Sorry, you're wrong about that, too.

As to contributing to the debate, it's been particularly pleasing to me that several things I posted about here showed up in newspapers across the state, usually within a couple of days. You might get to contribute to the debate yourself, if you ever got up the guts to use your real name. Like adults do. Which store do you work at?