Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Today's Inquirer reports that there is some action being considered in Harrisburg on the beer registration raids.
But in Harrisburg, several lawmakers are wondering whether the registration regulation - as well as other portions of the state's liquor code - are in need of updating. Rep. Robert Donatucci (D., Phila.), who chairs the House Liquor Control Committee, will be holding hearings to determine just that, Lynn Benka-Davies, the committee's executive director, said yesterday.
Well...that's a start. But what we should be doing is using this issue as the fulcrum to plant our lever to topple the whole thing, to bring down The Almighty Liquor Code.

Here's your course of action. First, instruct the BLCE to immediately stop enforcement activity on the registration law. Cut their budget, if necessary. Don't cry: this kind of thing happens all the time, it happened during Prohibition. It's an admission that a law needs fixing. The law serves no good purpose.

Next, quick-fix the beer registration part of the Code -- by deep-sixing it. Don't try to "fix" it, don't do the stupid Alabama thing where they lifted the 'cap' on beer ABV from a ridiculously low 5% to a higher but no less nonsensical 13.9% out of some misguided vision that they were preserving something. Brand registration is a relic, a fossil; the important thing is tax collection. Unless someone can come up with a really good reason to keep brand registration, dump it. Because the way it's being implemented and enforced is broken.

THEN...create a group to examine The Almighty Liquor Code with an eye to completely rewriting it. The group should include sitting legislators, PLCB reps, industry reps (brewers/importers, wholesalers, and retailers), a lawyer specializing in PA booze law, a rep from an anti-alcohol group (because their agenda has to be considered to get buy-in), and, most importantly, consumer representation...because we keep getting forgotten and locked out.

Rewrite the Code! Clean up the beer laws. Dump all the fossil relic crap that no one even remembers the reasons for why it's there. Privatize liquor and wine sales. Fix the licensing system. Level the market. If three-tier is left in place -- which I'm not against -- make it more fair to all involved. Break up the functions of the PLCB. Re-cast the Johnstown Flood Emergency Tax. Create new incentives for self-policing (stuff like rewards for seizing fake IDs, for instance).

Don't be afraid. Citizens: neighboring states don't have these laws, and yet their alcohol problems are not greater or worse than Pennsylvania's. Licensees: if you get involved in the process instead of balking it, you can help make it beneficial by freeing you to do more with your business (full-service "all-alcohol" retail stores, inventory delivered to bars by wholesalers at reasonable prices, the ability to amass wine cellars on par with New York restaurants, less paperwork). Brewers: you can stop looking over your shoulders. PLCB employees: jobs will be created, opportunities will be created, and if the process is at all fair, you will be provided for (early retirement packages, preferential hiring on state jobs, loan packages to open your own private wine stores, etc.).

We have put up with this shit for almost 80 years. It's time to reap the fruits of Repeal.


Alan Miller said...

I am curious about

"If three-tier is left in place -- which I'm not against -- make it more fair to all involved"

how does the "Public" benifit from a three-tier system?

Lew Bryson said...

Here's the thing, Alan. Taking three-tier out of the equation makes me more nervous about the unknown consequences than anything else in this whole thing. Here's a piece I wrote about it some years ago:

Things have changed since then; craft is much stronger, chain markets have picked up a lot more beer variety, but I think the basic unknowns remain.

Anonymous said...

I keep checking for their words of wisdom on the matter. I guess I should have known better.