State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Beer distributors putting up fight on liquor plan

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 28, 2013 11:55 PM
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Any reservations beer distributors have about the governor's liquor privatization plan have been distilled into outright opposition.

Immediately after Governor Corbett unveiled his plan to replace state liquor stores with privately held licenses to sell wine, spirits, and beer, the distributors were concerned, but they were also pleased to see it included one thing they've wanted for a long time: the ability to sell not just cases of beer, but six-packs. Tom Mehaffie, who owns Breski Beverage distributor in Dauphin County, said package reforms would help him satisfy more customers, and offered one example of why customers sometimes don't want to spring for a whole case.

"If you take Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA, it's over 100 dollars a case," said Mehaffie during an appearance on witf's Radio Smart Talk Thursday. "No one really wants to purchase and try that beer at 100 dollars a case and take the risk and say, 'Ooh, I didn't like this.'"

But distributors say the proposed licenses to sell six-packs as well as wine and liquor would be too costly for them - and they're not too keen on going up against large retailers for customers.

"We have been economically shackled for 80 years," said Mark Tanczos, president of the Malt Beverage Distributor Association. "We have played by the rules that the governor and the General Assembly had created years ago, in the past. We follow those rules and now basically what the governor's plan does for our beer distributors is basically throw us into a competition that certainly is not fair to us." He said the plan will drive distributors out of business.

The Republican state House Majority Leader is leading the charge on the governor's privatization plan. He's expected to introduce legislation modeled on Corbett's proposal next week. Meanwhile, proposals to allow beer distributors to sell smaller packages have bipartisan support in the state Senate.


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