Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is this great? Or is it pathetic?

A little over a week ago, on May 3rd, I walked into the Wegmans in Downingtown, PA, on my way back from the Sly Fox Goat Races. I bought some cheese, some fruit, milk, dishwasher detergent, and something else...can't remember...

Oh, right. Beer.

I went into a supermarket in Pennsylvania and bought a bottle of Brooklyn Local One (Yes, I know, I should have bought Victory, or at least a Pennsylvania beer, but I just wanted a Local One. Sue me). I got one bottle, paid for it, and walked out, thinking "Look at me, I just bought a bottle of beer in a supermarket in Pennsylvania! The new world has dawned, we are free!"

Big deal. I still don't understand why this is, or was, such a cause for alarm and celebration. It's nothing new. I bought single beers at the Ashton Market in Upper Darby over 10 years ago! The store had about 400 different beers, and I did a two-page beer newsletter for them. It was a small grocery store with a deli counter in the back that did take-out sandwiches, but it wasn't a restaurant: it was a grocery store.

Look, kudos to the PLCB (yes, I really did say that, give me a second to explain): they got this right. When Wegmans and Sheetz applied for their licenses and laid out how they were going to sell take-out beer in their stores, the PLCB approved it. Because it was legal. As they love to point out, they just enforce the Almighty Liquor Code. It wasn't the PLCB that was holding us up. It was the conservative nature of Pennsylvania politics (and retail; you notice that Wegmans is an out-of-state company), a lack of imagination, and the Pennsylvania Malt Beverage Distributors Association, who sued to keep those licenses from being granted.

But that is just about over, appeals exhausted (and a lot of good beer money wasted on lawyers who should have advised their clients better). Which will only mean that now you can buy beer in large grocery stores. That have spent wads of money to buy a restaurant license.

Beer is groceries. See my previous post (which applies every bit as much to beer as it does to wine and spirits): why does this stuff even need to be so heavily regulated? Lighten up. This is not about control. This is about entrenched interests, it's about business. Why not make it about the consumer -- the voter, the taxpayer -- once in a while?


1WineDude said...

I have purchased beer at this very same store.

We could not purchase groceries at the same counter as the beer.

We could not take beer for purchase outside of the cafeteria "restaurant" area and continue shopping, unless we purchased the beer first and it got little stickers put on it.

And the clerk could not bag the beer for us. We had to bag the beer (though they would give us a bag).

So there are some aspects that are still pathetic...


CigarShrink said...

I thought about this post over the weekend. I was taking my sister-in-law, who is from Georgia, to a Walmart to pick up some party supplies. As we were reviewing our list of things to pick up, she mentioned that we needed beer. Slightly embarrassed, I had to explain to her that we'd need to make a separate stop for beer.

I wonder how many times Pennsylvanians have to have this stupid conversation every day?