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Pennsylvania: Senate OKs bill for wine to go!

“This is the biggest fundamental change in the offering of wine and spirits to the public that we’ve seen in 90 years,” Mr. Browne said.

Great news for on premise locations in Pennsylvania! Restaurants, hotels, and select grocery stores are able to sell to go bottles of wine, a maximum of four bottles per customer, under a proposal that was passed this Thursday. The bill was approved with a majority of 29-21, in a mostly party-line vote by the Pennsylvania state Senate.

The bill allows consumers to enjoy wine at their own convenience and brings an increased opportunity for more Sunday and holiday sales.

The proposal goes hand-in-hand with a larger framework geared to end Pennsylvania’s months-long budget impasse. This deal, sought by the Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, would increase spending on education, along with the pension and liquor reforms wanted by Republican legislative leaders. The Senate committee meeting Thursday morning sent the wine bill to the Senate floor and Mr. Wolf’s spokesman reiterated his support for the plan as part of the larger potential budget deal.

Seems like a win-win situation!

However, in recent news, the big picture idea of the deal quickly broke apart. The framework could not hold up as House Republican leaders said they couldn’t muster votes for any tax increases that would be required for the level of education funding sought by the governor. After the Senate approved a $30.78 billion budget supported by the governor, which took place on Monday, the House on Tuesday voted 115-86 for its own $30.26 billion plan.

“The governor is committed to the framework that includes historic education funding, pension reform and liquor reform. He will sign the liquor plan if it is part of the agreed to framework. It is time to finish a budget that is balanced and paid for with revenue that begins to address our chronic deficit,” spokesman Jeffery Sheridan declared.

Many in Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh believe the bill doesn’t do enough to privatize Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor system. They believe the bill was a product of “consensus.” This proposal falls far short of the full privatization of state wine and spirits stores that many Republicans have sought, though it does still represent a major change in how the state sells wine.

“This is the biggest fundamental change in the offering of wine and spirits to the public that we’ve seen in 90 years,” Mr. Browne said.

The proposal is estimated to generate $39 million for the state’s general fund this fiscal year and $43 million for the general fund in fiscal year 2016, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill. The revenue would come from the sale of expanded permits to sell wine and from increased wine sales.


The bill is being opposed by unions representing state store workers who fear the loss of consumer foot traffic from retail state stores would hinder their sales performance. The bill is also opposed by spirits groups who don’t want to see fewer customers in state stores. The restaurants and hotels selling wine would still be required to purchase the wine they sell from state stores, however. Currently, wine sales are accounting for approximately half of the sales by Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, according to the agency’s most recent annual report. This amount representing close to one billion dollars.

Source: Post-Gazette