Saturday, October 13, 2012

Next month: beer law forum at Yards Brewing

If you're in the Philly metro area, you ought to join us at Yards Brewing on November 8, at 7 PM for another Beer Laws Forum, put on by Philly Beer Scene. Here's the scoop:
Join us for the 2nd of our Beer Laws Forums. Last February we had an open forum discussing the different beer laws affecting Pennsylvania. Senator Chuck McIlhinney who writes our Beer Laws column and Lew Bryson answered questions and Tom Kehoe of Yards moderated.
For this forum, Tom, Lew and the Senator have all generously agreed to once again sit on the panel, and this time will be joined by Bill Covaleski, of Victory Brewing Co who will be representing the Brewers of Pennsylvania, and Mike Gretz Sr. of Gretz Beer Distributors, who will be representing things from the wholesalers point of view. The forum is open to the public and we will do our best to answer everyone's questions.
The event will be held at the Yards Brewing Co. tasting room and the bar will be open for the event. 
You should come, because this is a chance to find out what's really going on with liquor law in the Keystone State. We are in an activist phase in the legislature with regards to the Liquor Code; things ARE changing...but not the case law, and not its even more ridiculous corollary, the "only 2 sixpacks law" that says if you want to buy more than 192 oz. of beer to go at a have to buy two sixers, step outside, then come back in and buy more. 

I want at least one of you to ask the Senator what the chances are of killing or even significantly changing the case law by this time next year. He'll say it's not going to happen this year...then I'll do my bit and ask him "Why not?" Then, most importantly, I'll ask Tom, Bill, and Mike what their position is on the case law. 

We all want sixpack sales. We'd really like beer sales of any volume at grocery stores (and convenience stores and gas stations and drugstores; you know, like they do in other states?), although we know that's not likely. But why can't we get sixpack sales? You need to ask the Senator, then go home and ask your legislator the same question. And don't settle for "No." Ask why

And while you're at Yards, do what I do: drink plenty of Brawler. It's my debating beer of choice.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Next year - why we need to get this right

Privatization is over for 2012. The unions shouted and chanted and wore their matching t-shirts while their president for life, Wendell W. Young, fourth of his line, told scary tales of "the possibility of liquor stores on every corner" if privatization went through, deliberately ignoring the ridiculously inadequate license caps legislators carefully included in every proposal. The social conservatives quietly pressed for more regulation on alcohol. And the fearful legislators, mindful of the campaign contributions of these two groups -- especially those of organized labor -- gutted the privatization proposal that was before them. Then majority leader Turzai's hamhanded politicking ruined any chance that it would go anywhere. So once again, the clear will of the majority of the Commonwealth's citizens was thwarted by a gutless government.

Well, maybe not so bad. After all, the voters of Washington went for a privatization scheme that raised their already high liquor taxes, which should be a caution to all Pennsylvanians who want privatization. That caution, of course, is to be very, very careful about the privatization you get. Because all we've been offered recently is a bill -- HB11 -- that obviously was written with large corporate interests very much in mind, and an amendment to it that was clearly designed to be impossible to pass, in a nod to the power of organized labor. These were not the privatization we wanted, and I'm glad they didn't pass.

I've already made some suggestions in that direction, and you can see them here. To sum up briefly:

1. Let supermarkets sell beer, wine and liquor, purchased from private wholesalers. This competition will likely kill the State Stores anyway.

2. Charge a flat fee to any business that wants to sell booze – no cap on licenses. This will actually make more money for the State, and make it easier for non-nuisance bars to thrive.

3. Tax volume, not value. The Johnstown Flood Emergency Tax makes cheap booze even cheaper, while making better booze even more expensive. Go to a gallonage tax, like almost every other state.

4. Allow Pennsylvanians to buy wine, spirits, or beer in other states, or through the mail/Internet from anywhere, without penalty. -- End the police-enforced monopoly.

5. Allow any authorized retailer to sell beer in any volume they desire, without fake restrictions. -- End the case law. Now. The Legislature has fiddled around for years over this simple change. Shut up and do it.

6. Open up the wholesale market to more competition. -- More wholesalers means more competition, which means better prices and service.

Start planning for next year. Ask your legislator now where they stand on privatization. Tell them that you're in favor of privatization, that you're in favor of doing away with all vestiges of the case law, and that you need to know if they're in favor of those two things...and if not, you want real good reasons why not. We need to be clear with the Legislature that this is an important issue for us, and that it will affect how we vote next month.

The PLCB has shown abundantly how riddled with incompetence it is, and now their corruption is coming to the surface as well. Their ludicrous "modernization, not privatization" campaign is pathetically self-serving. Here's a thought: how about someone in Harrisburg thinks about all of us and what we want instead of making another damn skeezy deal to get some other small group what they want?

This is far from over, though PJ Stapleton's early resignation is a welcome gift. The day after the election, remind Governor Corbett that he owes us privatization.