Capitol Roundup from Rep. Mike Peifer

House Approves Measure to Get PA Out of Liquor Business

State-owned liquor stores would be phased out and wine and spirits sold by private entities under legislation adopted by the state House this week. Since the end of Prohibition 80 years ago, Pennsylvania has had one of the most strict government-controlled alcohol delivery systems in the country. The bill, which passed the House Thursday by a vote of 105-90, would resemble laws already in place in 48 other states. House Bill 790 would make available at least 1,200 licenses to sell wine and spirits in the state, with beer distributors given the first opportunity to obtain a license at a discounted rate. After the first year, the remaining licenses would be offered to other buyers. The bill also creates grocery store wine licenses and wine-to-go permits and expands the flexibility of distributorships by allowing them to sell growlers, six-packs or 12-packs rather than just cases.

Focusing on Public Safety

Pennsylvania’s Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is currently charged both with marketing alcoholic beverages and controlling them. Under House Bill 790, the PLCB would focus solely on enforcement, compliance and education. To ensure alcohol is kept out of the hands of minors under the privatized system, the bill would require Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP) training for retailers, as well as age compliance checks. All licensed retailers also will be required to use identification scanners with age verification software and must scan everyone appearing to be under the age of 35.  

Transitioning From the Current System

The bill recognizes the impacts of privatization by providing help to displaced state store workers by offering them financial help to pursue education and training, preferential treatment for state jobs for which the employee has necessary skills and additional points on the state civil service exam. The bill also acknowledges the investments of existing beer distributors by giving them the first opportunity to purchase wine and spirits licenses and offering package reforms to give them more flexibility with the products they sell. The state stores would be phased out gradually as the number of privately operated wine and spirits outlets increases. Once the number of state-operated stores falls below 100 across the Commonwealth, the remaining stores would be closed.

Currently, Pennsylvania is one of only two states that maintain complete control over the sale of wine and spirits. House Bill 790 now heads to the Senate for consideration. More information is available at

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