Monday, June 1, 2015

65 years of research isn't enough

I've been fighting this for a while now but there is only one conclusion I can come up with:

Some of our legislators are idiots.

There, I said it.

Reading the bills floating around that pertain to Liquor control one has to wonder what and why they are thinking some of these things. Who might they be pandering too? Some are pretty obvious and others not so much. I'll give you a few...strangely specific examples.

HB 619 - A bipartisan bill to change the requirements on who can hold a wine auction for a charity or non-profit. One of the limits is that you have to be: "(6) any nationally recognized community-based voluntary health organization committed to fighting cancer which has been in existence for at least ninety years"

Well, guess what...that leaves only the American Cancer Society.  Groups like the  Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which has only been around since 1950, don't qualify to have a wine auction to help them raise funds.

Sticking with HB 619 you have: "(7) any nationally recognized emergency response organization that offers humanitarian care to victims of war or natural disaster and has been in existence for at least one hundred twenty-five years"

Find another organization besides the Red Cross that fits those limits. Now if you live out in the sticks (a county of the third class) and raise guide dogs, for example, you could have opened last week and get an auction permit if HB 619 passes. Don't live in a county of the first or second class - they don't quality at all.

It isn't just that one bill. Here is HB 770, which has limits like this: "a club which has been issued a club liquor license and which, as of December 31, 2002, has been in existence for at least 100 years" This limits it to a handful of clubs like the Philadelphia Club and the Westmoreland Club, the only two I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure there are a few more. Nationally chartered clubs like the VFW and American Legion don't have an age requirement.

Then you have HB 55 which wants to expand the Liquor Control Board from the current three incompetents to six incompetents, with an additional three members from the industry for a total of nine -- with full pay and benefits of course. Here's a better idea: just require that one of the current three come from the industry. You're welcome.

HB 121 means well...if you happen to be in favor of skirting the minimum wage and child labor laws - to wit: "Notwithstanding any provisions of law to the contrary, a hotel, restaurant or club licensee may permit a minor of any age to perform music so long as the minor is not compensated and the minor is under the supervision of a parent or guardian."  The parent or guardian part also goes against the current liquor code which states a supervisor "shall mean a person twenty-five years of age or older who is directly responsible for the care and conduct of a minor or minors while on the licensed premises and who keeps the minor or minors within his or her sight or hearing." Are there so many 8 year olds who are being prevented from crooning at the local saloon that we need a law passed about it and why shouldn't they be paid if they do?

HB 412 Wants to add "neighborhood improvement district management associations" as eligible entities - without any age restrictions. So start one today, get you a liquor license!

HB 483 Wants to redefine what Cider is and, to me, in a seemingly odd way by limiting the amount of flavor and carbonation. But it does remove the limit it can only be made from apples and it raises the alcohol content from 5.5 to 14%. My question is why not make it the same as beer which has no proof limit? Better yet, ask the people who know.

HB 488 Will raise penalties for licensees that sell to minors. Which is fine, great, but why doesn't it apply to the State Stores? Because they are never checked by any outside agency or police force for sales to minors, and they aren't "licensed."

Not to be outdone, the Senate also has some silliness going on with liquor control. Everything from "Modernization" SB 15 which readers know I've dissected already, to more "Eligible Entities" with age restrictions (SB 323)

SB 611 Will let the state stores sell lottery tickets, "except that no bond, insurance or indemnification may be required by the board" We all know that nothing (cough cough kiosk) ever goes wrong when the board does things.

This is about 20% of all the liquor-related bills introduced so far. Now you know why the liquor system in Pennsylvania is so screwed up. Wipe it clean and start again. Being normal isn't bad, but living in PA as a liquor consumer is.



Sam Komlenic said...

Though I am in favor of privatization and have been a reader of this blog since its inception, I take umbrage with your blanket classification of the three current members as "incompetents."

I am personally acquainted with Michael Negra, a recent appointee of the pro-privatization Corbett administration. Though he does not come from "the industry," he is a successful and passionate independent businessman with an open mind regarding the future of alcohol sales in the Commonwealth.

I believe his appointment was a positive step in reforming the PLCB, whether that reform comes sooner or later. Please consider him a more neutral, non-traditional addition to the board, considering its patronage-influenced past.

Anonymous said...

In fact all three "incompetents" were appointed by Governor Corbett, but no matter, the move from the PLCB to the laws proposed by the legislature are typical blog non-sequitur. I assume the blogger isn't proposing abolishing law.

Albert Brooks said...

Fine Sam, point out one thing he has initiated to change the PLCB in any way and you might have a point. Going along with "interpretations" of things that just two weeks before were "interpreted" differently (12 pack sales) really doesn't count.

It isn't just lack of industry experience but that none of them in the entire history of the board has ever ran a $100 million company let alone one at $2 Billion so the citizens lose out on both counts and you can see that in decisions made all the time.

Albert Brooks said...

Not abolishing law, but abolishing the law that permits the PLCB to exist in retail and wholesale. Then we can work on abolishing some of the idiocy that is already in place that is like the laws above that are proposed. What you seem to miss is that this isn't a move from the PLCB to a codified system it is just more being heaped upon an already broken system. Of course, the anonymous poster would have had to have read the bills linked to know that because they are mostly based upon current regulation.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear, I'm not the same "anonymous" seen above. As fun as it might be to watch, I don't predict the death of state stores. Yes, lots of people in the border region shop at Total Wine instead, but most people I've talked to couldn't care less about the selection, service, or prices at a state store. I guess alcohol is something people will make great sacrifices to buy, or rather, something people are happy to buy and don't give any attention to the establishment they buy it from.

Lew Bryson said...

Really? Every single person I've ever talked to about this thinks the State Stores are an evil that has to be endured: terrible service, crap selection, and high prices.

And my anecdotal evidence is worth exactly what yours is: bupkis.

That's why I go with scientific polls instead. The only ones that show less than a majority for privatizing the system show a very low minority who want to keep them the way they are, with a middle group saying they want "modernization". I submit that these polls do not quantify what "modernization" is; we have, and it ain't much.

Anonymous said...

Today the new FWGS in Ardmore has a grand opening at 4:00 PM. I plan to go there and maybe talk to some customers about their honest feelings.

Lew Bryson said...

Limited utility: if they're at the opening, they've already given up. Why not go to Total Wine in Delaware and ask some Pennsylvanians what they think of the State Stores?

Albert Brooks said...

Yeah, you can fit the entire Ardmore store in Total's wine section. We can talk about selection then.

Albert Brooks said...

It appears the people of Ardmore didn't have anything good to say.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for not following up sooner, but actually I didn't end up talking to anyone (there just wasn't a good opportunity). However, I must give the new store a failing grade for a number of reasons (and NOT just because it's a state store):

1. The old store was BIGGER! Or at least I THINK it was. This old store opened new in 1992 as one of the very first PLCB superstores, so perhaps the PLCB when replacing it decided to shrink the selection to cut out poor-selling items ("cheap" wines?)

2. The new store used to be a DSW and it seems the PLCB spent NO money whatsoever to remodel it. All they did was add new shelves and move in. DSW had rotten lighting (which has aged badly in the past 23 years) and the PLCB kept it!

3. The new store doesn't have a carpeted section, variable ceiling heights, or neon signage, all of which gave the old store character.

4. The new store doesn't have two separate doors for entry and exit. The old store did (and yes they were swinging automatic doors) while the new store has sliding automatic doors which lead to uncomfortable turn-taking by people coming and going.

5. Also, speaking of doors, the PLCB got RID of the alarms on the doors that separate showroom from stockroom, which while seeming to be unnecessary, were used by DSW for security. And I truly am surprised because the old PLCB store in Ardmore always had a security guard watching the entrance!

Also, one question I have for any of you who might know: why were there still dozens of bottles of wine on the shelves of the OLD store as of yesterday? It's funny because the windows were mostly covered up already, but I was able to peek through the gaps in the paper and see plenty of items that hadn't been moved to the new store...

green lantern said...

Well I talked to a lot of people in chester county and around the area and got the same answer , the stores are just a convince , most people from pa. shop out of state for their booze. I seen the light

Albert Brooks said...

Thank you for the update although to call any state store a "superstore" is laughable when compared to what the rest of the country thinks of when you say superstore. Perhaps the lack of change from being a DSW to a state store was due to time. It seems that not taking the one or two years that the PLCB is famous for may have contributed to the out dated look. After all, they aren't a real business and you can't expect them to get the job done in only three months like a private store could.

I can only offer this explanation about the bottles.....they didn't have enough time or manpower to finish the job but it will get done eventually. I've seen it before when they are moving to a new store. If you hear something different please post.

Anonymous said...

Those bottles were probably " accidentally" left behind, but now that is was mentioned, they are in a plcb employees' home. The new code of conduct hasn't stopped anybody. They just staff shifts at stores with their buddies'. Ever wonder why you see shot glasses or flasks and t-shirts one day and the next they are gone? There are only a few that try to do an honest week. There would be no need for a union otherwise, the union are there for the offenders. Don't slam people for getting off track, you have many people who read and want to help abolish the PLCB. We know right and wrong. There are no working surveillance cameras in Chester co that I have heard of except Bradford Plaza. Fire the union, get a strong backbone, gather the troops. Any business that is a failure, goes out of business for that reason. Plcb is failing the state of PA.

Lew Bryson said...

Note to "Geno Washington": why don't you start your own commercial real estate blog? Because I'm not going to post your comments on it here. No offense, but it's just not relevant to the situation.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, why are any intelligent PA citizens expected to have any excitement about "modernization"? The PLCB has tried so many different store designs (but the PLCB has never really reinvented the functionality of its stores, just the cosmetic appearance) and obviously nobody seems to care or even notice. Why should they? The stores are just playing a shell game, musical chairs, a revolving door, a Bermuda Triangle, whatever you want to call it.

Sam Komlenic said...

OK insiders: what's a DSW?

Lew Bryson said...

Big shoe store, Sam.

Anonymous said...

The initials are short for "Designer Shoe Warehouse". I believe Federated Department Stores (owner of Macy's and Bloomingdale's) started the chain in the late 80's but sold it off soon afterwards.