Republicans Selling Out Beer Consumers in Alcohol Reform Bill

We can’t have nice things if Democrats won’t engage this debate in good faith, but this is still horrible. The top thing to want in alcohol reform is unlimited beer licenses for supermarkets, but apparently that’s going away for no better reason than that beer distributors don’t want to compete with supermarkets. And if I were a beer distributor owner I wouldn’t want to compete with supermarkets either. But there’s no public interest in blocking competition. The problem is that beer distributor interests aren’t the public interest. If any group has a claim on the public interest in this fight, it’s the beer consumers, not the sellers. That’s who politicians should be representing. The public interest is promoting more competition between all these businesses so consumers get the widest selection and the best prices:

Also unlike Corbett’s proposal: grocery stores could only sell wine – unless they also applied for a special license giving them permission to sell beer. That license would require them to have a separate seating area for food.

That tinkering was done to protect beer distributors – many small and family-owned – from competition by retail giants.

But perhaps the biggest difference is this: State Stores would not immediately shut down. Instead, they would be phased out over time, and some could remain open in rural counties.

That is because, under the revised plan, all State Stores in a county would close only if privately owned wine and spirits stores (including groceries) outnumbered them by 2-1. Some Republicans who support that change are concerned about sparsely populated areas where many State Stores do not turn a profit and businesses may be hesitant to purchase a license

It’s also nuts that Republicans want to keep failed businesses open in rural areas, where there’s not enough demand for liquor. If the market can’t support a liquor store, it’s not the government’s job to supply more liquor, at cheaper prices, than people want to buy. There is just no conceivable public interest in having the government subsidize the sale of liquor in empty areas of the state.


  1. Get them next year. Pass a bill, and make it clear its not the last one. One sacred cow per year.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I think that’s a naive view of the political economy. The big lesson of post-Communism is that you only get one bite at the apple when you privatize. Pro-market reforms don’t create the impetus for more market reforms. The winners of the first round of reform will be your enemies in the next round, and with each successive round it gets harder and harder to put a reform coalition together. We have to get as much right this time as we can, because there’s not going to be a second round.

  2. Ha! I’ve lived a few minutes of my life dealing with post-communism privatization plans. Sometimes you don’t want the comprehensive plan politicians put forward, especially with PA politicians.

    PA isn’t a post-communistic state. You aren’t rewriting the rules of the market, you’re just trying to get beer into the supermarket. I doubt other states that backtracked from Prohibition-era rules did it at one time. You have two coalitions (State Store workers and beer distributors) fighting this every step of the way. Taking away one reason gets a partial plan to Yes.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Ah, but Republicans have no appetite for going after the beer distributors. They want to stick it to the state store unions, and then they’re done. There’s no appetite to do anything at all on the Democratic side. So once the state stores are out of the picture, Harrisburg thinks its job is done. Beer distributors, and certainly taverns, are considered too sympathetic of characters for politicians to win the public relations fight against them.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Isn’t just about getting beer into the supermarket either. It’s about unwinding the licensing cartel, which is a political nightmare. People might like the idea in the abstract, but they won’t want to spend the tax dollars to pay off the current license holders.

  3. So what’s your point? Democrats don’t want to take on the “union jobs” of the State Stores, Republicans don’t want to take on the beer distributors. Seems like the solution is, over time, to let each do the dirty work for the other.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      That’s the ideal, but I count zero Democratic politicians who even think the beer distributor and tavern license cartels are a problem. It’s not on their agenda at all.

Speak Your Mind