Jun 162009

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has some rather intrusive interventionist alcohol laws. Wines and spirits can only be sold in state stores and the distribution of beer is regulated tightly. Tentative efforts taken by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in recent years have sought to expand the range of alcohol retailers in the state. These have included trial exceptions to Sunday sale laws and laws that currently forbid grocery stores and convenience stores from selling alcohol. However, either good intentions have met with entrenched bureaucracy or the PA Supreme Court is playing bad cop to the legislature’s good cop. To wit:

Court OKs beer to-go but Sheetz must also sell on-site

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to shake up the way beer is sold in the commonwealth yesterday, ruling that a Sheetz store in Altoona cannot sell beer to-go unless it’s also served for on-site consumption.┬áThe court took a long drink from the state’s liquor laws and — more than a year after hearing arguments on the case — determined by a 5-1 vote that although the specific language is vague, the writers of the state’s laws on beer distribution did not intend for convenience stores to sell suds.”

I would like to see an end to PA’s bizarre relationship with alcohol sales, but I can respect ruling in its favor for the sake of rule of law. However, I’m not convinced that respect for rule of law guided this decision. What tipped me off:

“The [Sheetz] store began selling take-out six-packs in 2004 after the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board granted it an ‘eating place malt beverage license.’┬áThe Malt Beverage Distributors Association objected, claiming that such licenses are meant for bars and eating establishments that primarily serve beer to in-house patrons — which the Sheetz did not do. The group argued that the store had become a beer distributor free of the state’s regulations that distributors sell only by the case or keg.”

Gee, we wouldn’t want to allow any new competition for the members of the Malt Beverage Distributors Association, would we?

Ain’t lobbying, favoritism, and collusion grand? :-/