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Radio Smart Talk: Beer distributors weigh in on Corbett's privatization plans

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Feb 27, 2013 7:54 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Thursday, February 28:

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Buying beer in Pennsylvania is different than in almost every other state in the country.  Bars, taverns, and restaurants sell beer in six or 12-packs, but no more than that.  In recent years, a handful of grocery and convenience stores that also serve food have starting selling beer. 

Those who wish to purchase a case of beer must go to a beer distributor.  Under current law, distributors can't sell anything less than a case.

The sale of alcoholic beverages has been under state control in Pennsylvania since Prohibition ended in the 1930s.  Gov. Tom Corbett has often said it is not a core function of government and that the current system isn't customer friendly.  As a result, Corbett has proposed sweeping changes in how beer, wine, and liquor are sold in the state. 

Corbett's proposal goes further than selling liquor stores to private businesses or making beer and wine available in grocery stores.  The governor wants distributors to be able to sell six or 12 packs.  However, the most significant change under his plan would allow distributors to sell wine and spirits along with beer.

What do beer distributors think about the proposal?

We'll find out on Thursday's Radio Smart Talk.  Appearing will be Malt Beverage Distributors Association President Mark Tanczos and beer distributor Tom Mehaffie, owner and operator of Breski Beverage outside Harrisburg.

Should Pennsylvania change how and where beer is sold?

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Mark Tanczos and Tom Mehaffie

 

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Comments: 15

  • Lisa img 2013-02-28 09:26

    I really doubt that all beer distributors will go out of business. Where I live in rural Lancaster county there are no big box chain stores and the 2 grocery stores in our area are both owned by Mennonites. One only just started having limited Sunday hours last year. The other is closed on Sundays and doesn't carry products prohibited by their church like cosmetics and definitely won't be selling alcohol! Our local beer distributor is in no danger of going out of business.


    Other reasons why distributors won't all go out of business:

    1. Their ability to carry a selection that Walmart certainly won't. I envision Walmart selling only Anheuser-Bush products due to their business practices.

    2. Customer practices. My husband is usually the one who buys beer and I'm usually the one who buys the groceries. I probably won't be making the beer purchases just because they're sold in the grocery store. My husband hates the lines at the grocery store and certainly won't have the patience to wade through the aisles to get to the beer so he will continue to go to the grocery store.

    3. Border bleed already exists. Proposed changes won't alter this.

    Some distributors will certainly go out of business; that's the nature of breaking up a monopoly, but not all. There's a chain grocery store in Bellefonte that is one allowed to sell six-packs and it does not seem to have impacted the local beer distributor.

    • Lisa img 2013-02-28 09:37

      Sorry, item 2 should end with cotinuing going to the beer distributor.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-28 09:39

    Email from Thomas in Lancaster Co. :

    one simple question.....why is there such an urge to sell liquor wine and beer? this is the most abused drug and now it seems that it is be promoted not under control? this is no different them lottery and gambling. promoting addictive and destructive behavior.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-28 09:42

    Email from Listener:
    You private distributors obviously didn't give much $$$ to the Corbett campaign.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-28 09:43

    Email from Blaine in York:

    I am not a big drinker.

    I am not impressed with the gov's plan.

    I would like to see the state stores modernized.

    I prefer to see limited modification to current system.

    IF we want to get the state out of the alcohol industry, totally eliminate lic. let everyone sell anything.
    I REALLY DO NOT WANT THIS!

    If this passes we have a moral obligation to buy out the beer distributors

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-28 09:44

    Email from Manuel, Carlisle:
    I’d love to see my local beer distributorship be allowed to sell wine and liquor. Right now, for the liqueur I want to buy, I have to go to Maryland so I can have a liquor store order it for me. I feel confident that if my local distributor, who I currently go to for my craft beer and ale, could order these products in, as they do in Maryland, It would improve my ability to select and purchase the products I desire.

    However, if supermarkets, and other stores, can get beer, I know my craft beers will go away, and I’ll have to go to Maryland to get that too.

    • lew.bryson img 2013-02-28 10:02

      Manuel, you say "However, if supermarkets, and other stores, can get beer, I know my craft beers will go away, and I’ll have to go to Maryland to get that too."

      You don't have to worry about that. The supermarkets in PA that are already selling beer (by buying an R license and setting up a cafe) ARE selling a great selection of craft beer. I know, I've been to them, and my expectations are pretty high. Troegs, Weyerbacher, Brooklyn, Founders, Stone, Mikkeler...I've seen all those and more at the Wegmans near me. And...even in the small town in upstate New York where my in-laws live, the local supermarket has a very good selection of craft beer, with a great mix-a-six program. Prices are competitive, too.

    • lew.bryson img 2013-02-28 10:04

      Manuel, you say "However, if supermarkets, and other stores, can get beer, I know my craft beers will go away, and I’ll have to go to Maryland to get that too."

      You don't have to worry about that. The supermarkets in PA that are already selling beer (by buying an R license and setting up a cafe) ARE selling a great selection of craft beer. I know, I've been to them, and my expectations are pretty high. Troegs, Weyerbacher, Brooklyn, Founders, Stone, Mikkeler...I've seen all those and more at the Wegmans near me. And...even in the small town in upstate New York where my in-laws live, the local supermarket has a very good selection of craft beer, with a great mix-a-six program. Prices are competitive, too.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-28 09:45

    Email from Lew:
    If the "all-alcohol" license that Corbett's proposal is suggesting for beer distributors cost significantly less than $150,000 (like $30,000, and a reasonable annual renewal fee), and if the "right" to sell sixpacks was added to all beer distributors' license for free, would beer distributors support privatization?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-28 09:46

    Email from Brandon:
    You're looking at it all wrong. If you open a case of 120 minute IPA for example You could sell those individual beers for $5-$7 a piece That is a way larger profit margin selling one case total at $120. I've even seen people selling 120 minute IPA for $15 a bottle. That's almost a 300% mark up.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-28 09:49

    Email from Patti in Chambersburg:
    - I want to be able to buy beer, wine, and spirits in one place. I hate having to go to two stores every time I want to stock up for a party.

    - The state has no business being the in the liquor business. The employees at state stores are not friendly, not helpful, and now knowledgeable. At least the employees at my beer distributor are helpful, knowledgeable, and helpful.

    - I want to be able to buy less than a case of beer.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-28 09:55

    Email from Curtis:
    As someone who lived in Virginia for ten years and still visits often, I have to disagree with your guests: grocery stores always kept an excellent selection of beers in stock.

    My question is what percentage of beer distributor sales are to restaurants and bars as opposed to direct sales to the public? Would the fact that so many restaurants and bars operate by having a large selection of beers mean that beer distrbutors would be able to keep a large selection of beers?

    I'm in favor of beer distributors being able to sell beer in cases or six and twelve packs as well as convenience and grocery stores being able to sell beer (and wine for that matter).

    Your guests are a beer distributor and a lobbyist for beer distributors; their job is to sell the legislative package that is most advantageous to their business model.

  • Dona img 2013-02-28 10:08

    Thank you for taking up this issue. If nobody has raised the point, I think as a society we should keep in mind alcohol-related problems. We don't have a terrific solution to alcohol abuse yet. For many people, the advice of AA is their best hope. A big part of that is avoiding going places. Obviously it is one thing to avoid state stores and another to avoid groceries and big box stores. Mightn't the costs of rehabilitation, police man-hours, re-hiring, family counseling, etc. increase if alcohol more widely available, offsetting the supposed wisdom of changing the system?

  • L. Dwayne Sudduth img 2013-03-04 09:28

    I heard and must disagree with the commentary about 'Convenience Store' sales being a haven for underage drinking. There is an easy way to handle that: Indiana made it the law to card anyone under 26; and this rule is enforced--heaviest in areas with a high number of College Students. Many establishments enacted policies to always card alcohol sales to avoid the hefty penalties involved with getting caught selling alcohol to minors. Living most of my life in Indiana, I enjoyed being able to pick up a warm six pack at a grocery, or stopping at one place to buy both beer and liquor/wine rather than wasting gas driving several places to get items. I never buy beer by the case; I simply don't drink alcohol often enough to warrant needing that many; and I enjoyed mixing and matching my six-pack when I was on vacation last October.

    The concept of a 'Beer Distributor' that serves the general public was strange to me when I first moved here; where I'm from the 'Distributor' was the wholesaler, who sold to bars, liquor stores, etc. Coming from a home state that does not have 'state owned' liquor stores; I think the way PA does business is outdated. PA needs to get out of the alcohol business.

  • L. Dwayne Sudduth img 2013-03-04 09:29

    I heard and must disagree with the commentary about 'Convenience Store' sales being a haven for underage drinking. There is an easy way to handle that: Indiana made it the law to card anyone under 26; and this rule is enforced--heaviest in areas with a high number of College Students. Many establishments enacted policies to always card alcohol sales to avoid the hefty penalties involved with getting caught selling alcohol to minors. Living most of my life in Indiana, I enjoyed being able to pick up a warm six pack at a grocery, or stopping at one place to buy both beer and liquor/wine rather than wasting gas driving several places to get items. I never buy beer by the case; I simply don't drink alcohol often enough to warrant needing that many; and I enjoyed mixing and matching my six-pack when I was on vacation last October.

    The concept of a 'Beer Distributor' that serves the general public was strange to me when I first moved here; where I'm from the 'Distributor' was the wholesaler, who sold to bars, liquor stores, etc. Coming from a home state that does not have 'state owned' liquor stores; I think the way PA does business is outdated. PA needs to get out of the alcohol business.

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