Pennsylvania Finally Putting An End To Weird Wine Laws

Image courtesy of johndegree

After nearly a century of having some of the strangest restrictions on the sale of beer, wine, and booze in the country, Pennsylvania’s rules on alcohol sales are about to get slightly less byzantine.

As things stand now, the only way to purchase bottles of wine in PA is through one of about 600 “state stores” — state-operated retail outlets that sell wine and liquor.

Last night, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a piece of legislation that would not only open up wine sales to grocery stores (and restaurants and hotels), but would do away with other outdated restrictions, like a prohibition against home-delivery of wine.

Additionally, state stores will no longer face arcane rules limiting sales on Sundays. The Liquor Control Board could also offer more flexible pricing through discounts and coupons.

“For the last 80-some years we have not been able to do this, so this truly is historic,” said Gov. Wolf after signing the bill.

While the legislation is a huge change in how the state regulates wine sales, it still leaves the sale of spirits strictly under the state’s control. Some supporters of doing away with this system entirely believe that wresting wine sales out of the state’s hands will be the first domino that ultimately results in privatization of liquor sales statewide.

The changes technically take effect in 60 days, but it remains to be seen how quickly the state’s Liquor Control Board can implement the necessary steps, like issuing the proper licenses to stores and other businesses. Both the state and the retail associations backing the legislative efforts have indicated that a fire will be lit under the correct bureaucratic butts to get these changes in place expeditiously.

The current system is a mish-mash of restaurants and hotels allowed to sell wine and liquor (but not to-go), and a few hundred grocery and convenience stores that are allowed to sell limited amounts of beer. Once implemented, affected stores will be permitted to sell up to four bottles of wine to a customer, with wine sales ending at 11 p.m. each night.

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