Get Your Wine From A Vending Machine In Pennsylvania

Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I always assumed you could only buy beer at a bar, restaurant or beer distributor and that wine and liquor had to be purchased at “state stores.” So it comes as a bit of a surprise to this kid from the Philly burbs that PA recently became the first state to begin selling wine out of large in-store “kiosks.”

For the moment, the kiosks are only in two Pennsylvania grocery stores. But the Liquor Control Board will expand that to around 100 more if these prove successful.

The process for buying wine isn’t completely automated. After the customer swipes their license and blows into an alcohol sensor, they have to look into a camera so that their identity can be verified remotely by a state employee. The whole process takes about 20 seconds.

While shoppers are snapping up the wines, the president and founder of The Wine School of Philadelphia isn’t a fan of the Big Brother-ish purchasing system:

The process is cumbersome and assumes the worst in Pennsylvania’s wine consumers – that we are a bunch of conniving underage drunks… (Liquor board) members are clearly detached from reality if they think these machines offer any value to the consumer.

Simple Brands, the company that makes the kiosks, says the target market here isn’t wine snobs or oenophiles. “They were developed for the average consumer who wants a nice bottle of wine with their steak and seafood,” explains the company’s president.

Now if only they sold single-serve cups of Whitesnake wine.

Pennsylvania launches wine vending machines [NY Daily News]


Edit Your Comment

  1. SerenityDan says:

    The fact that you need to have your photo taken + there being so many state stores everywhere in Philadelphia= no thanks

  2. parvax says:

    God, I live in the stupidest state ever… why can’t we just buy alcohol like NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS

    • chaesar says:

      as a lifetime resident, I couldn’t agree more

      to answer your question, my guess is state legislators think these laws protect us from ourselves, they think our DUI problems have something to do with how we buy it instead of how we act after we consume it

    • Engine-B says:

      I agree! I moved here from a state where you could buy all your liquor, beer and wine at the grocery store. Life was good, people were happy. PA needs to wake up already!

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Where could you buy liquor at a grocery store? Sounds like a great place!

        • axhandler1 says:

          New Jersey, for one. The A&P near my house has a large liquor department. So does the Stop & Shop.

        • OPRAH says:

          Live in Philadelphia, but I’m originally from Seattle. I have to plan out my day in order to purchase my alcohol here. I miss being able to walk to Safeway and easily grab some beer or wine in the process.

          • Egat says:

            And finally there’s not one but *TWO* initiatives this year that will likely make the ballot to privatize liquor sales here in Washington.

            • varro says:

              I-1100 is sponsored by Costco….and if I-1100 passes, all of us Oregonians will go over the border to Vancouver to escape the OLCC as well…

        • Randell says:

          You can in Michigan. All my liquor needs can be met at most grocery stores.

        • RickN says:

          Wifey and I went to Vegas on vacation. Walked into a grocery store and ended up on the Vodka aisle. Very different from Georgia.

        • Thyme for an edit button says:

          You can in California

    • IR1 says:

      Glad I live in California… liquor store down the street or hit up the safeway… oh and COSTCO, great for lots of reasonably priced liquor.

    • evnmorlo says:

      Make your own at home

    • pk says:


  3. PTB315 says:

    Big ups to the state of PA, for this, no clean indoor air laws, and The Bloodhound Gang. I wish they’d adopted their song about PA as the official state song.

    “We are Zima we are barf
    We are cinder block yard art
    We are Baldwin brothers
    Not the good one but the others”

  4. digital0verdose says:

    This doesn’t make any sense. Why all the clunkiness for wine? What do PA’s residents have to do for beer, walk in a straight line while touching their nose with alternating hands and reciting the ABC’s backwards?

    • mbz32190 says:

      Pretty much.
      Beer can only be purchased through a distributor (by the case), or up to one 12 pack per visit to a restaurant that offers carry-out beer.

      (Some supermarkets in PA, like Wegmans, have gotten around the law by sectioning off (with simple low iron fences) the cafe’ portion of the store and acquiring a restaurant licence.)

      • chaesar says:

        and selling 6- and 12-packs requires a special license, that is not only very expensive, but only a specified number are available in a given geographic area

  5. grucifer says:

    Ugh, as a PA resident and Libertarian I hate Big Brother-ish feel to this system as well. I’d say it’s a step in the right direction for those of us of legal age to buy booze where ever we want, but the breathalyser and facial recognition is asinine.

  6. chaesar says:

    this will fail once the “novelty” wears off

  7. Snoofin says:

    If they didnt have some way to verify ID then there would be a ton of kids buying wine since there would be no way for a machine to verify that they arent their dad or whoever’s license they swiped. I think its fine to have to look into a camera. Most of the time, the only time these things will be used are after state store hours.

    • MDSasquatch says:

      I lived in Japan for 3 years and there were beer machines on every corner it seemed; if memory serves me right, some of them even vended whiskey. I used these machines often, but cannot remember children frequenting the machines.

      I have some spirits in my house right now, I also have two teenagers; neither of them has any desire to imbibe, but if they chose to, it would be fairly easy. Kids that want booze will get it, the key is growing them to respect boundaries.

      • hbkawachi says:

        Yup, you’re right. I live in Japan now and indeed you can buy beer, whiskey and sake in vending machines here. However, the ability to buy liquor from vending machines ends at 11:00 PM when the vending machines stop accepting money.

    • Tim says:

      Or, you could sell wine in grocery stores. That way, an actual human being looks at you and your ID to compare them.

      The problem is that PA doesn’t trust anyone other than its own liquor board employees to verify identities.

  8. sirwired says:

    Well, I suppose I have to give PA credit for innovation. Since LCB employees can’t actually change the law, this is not bad as a workaround.

    Of course, an ideal solution would be to normalize the law…

  9. Jeff_Number_3 says:

    If they’re going to expand the program if it proves successful, what defines ‘successful’? That it increases sales of wine (good thing for the stores) or that the process of purchase doesn’t work out to be as clunky in practice as it does in theory?

    And as a resident of a state where it’s legal to buy alcohol in actual stores (save for Sunday mornings when I usually do my grocery shopping >:-| ) do you still get carded at the checkout lane for alcohol? Or is it assumed that since you have it you’ve met all the requirements for purchase?

  10. pantheonoutcast says:

    “They have to look into a camera so that their identity can be verified remotely by a state employee.”

    So basically, it’s a more technologically advanced version of Calvin wearing the cardboard-box robot costume in an attempt to get his mom to give him chocolate.

  11. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Why are Pennsylvanians so irresponsible that they can’t be trusted to purchase alcohol in a normal manner?

  12. DingoAndTheBaby says:

    Big Brother BS aside, how is this really any different from states that allow drive-through liquor stores? It’s a convenience factor. And, really, the Big Brother stuff is just automated in this process; it’s not any different, really – if you’re drunk or underage when purchasing from a human being, chances are they won’t complete the sale. As for the picture-taking, if they swipe your driver’s license, then “they” still have tabs on you anyway. Get over it, people.

    • Tim says:

      The difference is that the state doesn’t trust ANYONE but its own employees to verify identities for wine sales. So while most states can trust a grocery store cashier to look at someone’s ID and check to make sure it’s not a bogus one, PA has to have every ID verified. They usually do that in a liquor store, and this process allows that process to happen remotely.

      • DingoAndTheBaby says:

        And I get all that, and understand where you’re coming from. And, while I’d generally omit the seemingly-obligatory “then don’t buy your wine from the machine if you don’t like it” comment, in states where swiping the customer’s ID is mandatory, this whole thing is just the same transaction sans the human in front of the customer. So getting incensed about it seems like a waste of energy. Granted I’m not from PA, nor do I live there currently, so this has little impact on me, it just seems like a lot of panic over something that should probably be done anyway, but isn’t, and people have gotten accustomed to the law-skirting that has taken place. I mean, isn’t that why there are barcodes and magnetic strips on IDs in the first place?

  13. Bluth_Cornballer says:

    Big deal… it doesn’t look like the box of my usual brand of wine will fit in the machine anyway.

  14. Hoss says:

    This system would work much more effectively with smokes. Prove your age, then prove your lungs have some capacity left. Then lights and bells, and you won yourself another pack

  15. cosmic.charlie says:

    Since when do you have to be sober to buy booze?

  16. captadam says:

    Oh, I love my native state … but, seriously, the lengths they go to to operate within their crazy patchwork of MADD-defended laws. I’m in Ohio now, and I can buy booze at the grocery store. And guess what? There are no kids falling down drunk in the street, and I have never seen an out-of-control drunk careening down the street and smashing into a utility pole.

  17. Ted3 says:

    I live in PA but work in MD. Thankfully I can get my beer, wine and hard liquor in one place, which of course is the liquor store. I’m tired of having to jump through hoops in PA AND pay more.

    @ Oprah..wouldn’t it be easier for you to drive over to NJ than running around Philly for your booze?

    • backinpgh says:

      Ah but theoretically you aren’t allowed to bring those back into the state of PA…don’t get pulled over!

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        You can’t bring a bottle of wine into PA? What?

        • Snoofin says:

          You can bring a bottle back but your supposed to go to some government building and get a form to fill out so you can send it in with the alcohol tax you wouldve payed if you bought it in Pa

  18. winnabago says:

    I see a new business opportunity – a mask / ID combo to use at the wine machine!

  19. backinpgh says:

    Sigh. I miss when I lived in Detroit and could get wine at Trader Joe’s.

    Although I will say PA’s Wines and Spirits stores have a great selection and aren’t nearly as seedy as the liquor stores in MI were.

  20. Minj says:

    As a PA resident and victim of drunk driving, I’d rather we just ban alcohol. Or since that isn’t too likely, tax the hell out of it. Ten bucks for a pack of cigarettes? It should be 10 bucks for a beer.

    • aloria says:

      As a NJ resident and a victim of a public transit groping, I suggest we ban all hands. Or trains. Or boobies. Take your pick.

    • benbell says:

      Uh huh… yep… keep telling yourself that is a good idea…

    • IR1 says:

      So you admit, the PA laws didnt stop you from being a victim…?

    • msbask says:

      Go to a ball game. It *is* ten bucks for a beer.

    • varro says:

      While I’m sympathetic to your status, you just undermined your own argument – the LCB didn’t prevent you from being the victim of a drunk driver.

      Compare that to me – living in OR, FL, and IL for 22 years after 18 in PA – I’ve not been the victim of a drunk driver living in states that have private liquor stores (FL and IL), and beer and wine in supermarkets (all three).

    • MauriceCallidice says:

      Maybe we should just ban driving while intoxicated. Then people won’t drive drunk because they won’t want to break the law.

    • shepd says:

      As a victim of an electric shock, we should ban high voltage electricity. *

      Or, maybe we should just ensure electricity is used safely. Your call.

      * – Pedants: I already know it’s the current that kills. But you can’t get enough current without enough voltage due to Ohm’s law and voltage is just way easier to control.

    • shepd says:

      Where I live we tax the hell out of drinking, and regulate the hell out of it as well. You can’t get a case of beer for under $28 by law here.

      We have so much drunk driving, it’s embarassing.

  21. dreamfish says:

    I suppose some of the critics of this machine are assuming over the counter purchases always mean (a) ID is properly validated and (b) stores never sell alcohol to someone who is already drunk. I’d be surprised if evidence showed both of those are properly followed at all times.

  22. sqeelar says:

    I think you can get liquor, beer and wine at big box “warehouse” stores in NJ, so PA gets to experiment with a Victorian Steampunk solution to it’s antiquated system which must benefit some business group.

    The roads seem much better in NJ. There is probably a correlation. Simple to drive, simple to buy liquor. Byzantine liquor laws, bad roads.

  23. chefboyardee says:

    i’m not sure i understand all the complaining about the “big brother” aspect.

    when you go into a liquor store, they check and swipe your license, and visually verify that you’re not intoxicated and match your license.

    what’s the difference if it’s remotely via a machine or at the counter?

    still, i think the idea of a wine vending machine is stupid. i just don’t agree with the big brother complaints. and i’m generally paranoid.

    • evnmorlo says:

      All alcohol restrictions are indeed Big Brotheresque, but a machine operated remotely by the government to dispense alcohol is a little more so. Even communism as limited as it is in PA ends up as totalitarianism.

      • chefboyardee says:

        i still don’t see the difference between the counter and the machine. you’re on cctv as soon as you walk in, they already scan your license, and they visually inspect you for intoxication. everything the machine is doing, the shop owner/clerk is doing too.

  24. Norvy says:

    Pennsylvania! Visit for the wine! Stay for the herpes!

  25. koali says:

    I live in PA and I managed to find a Super Food Town and Wegmans that sells alcohol. Much easier than having to go to multiple stores to get your drinks.

  26. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    It’s things like this that make me embarrassed to live in PA sometimes. This has to be one of the more stupid things our state has thought up in recent years. A state employee has to verify your identity remotely? In 20 seconds?? I bet. I will drink home made wine before I use one of these ridiculous machines.

  27. varro says:

    It’s still easier to go to NJ for those people, or OH or WV for Pittsburghers. You have to hand it to the LCB for making it a convoluted, unsanitary, and make-work project to sell wine in grocery stores.