Lt. Governor Stumps On Alcohol Rules

Scranton Times Tribune

During a tour of the café in Weis Markets in South Abington Twp., Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley showed his affection for Pennsylvania beer and a private sector that sells all alcoholic beverages.

Mr. Cawley gushed at the section reserved for Pennsylvania breweries, giving shout-outs to his favorite bottles from Yards and Troeg’s.

“Have you ever heard of Stegmaier?” asked Weis store manager Tom Murtha in a nod to Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre.

“Are you kidding me? I went to college,” Mr. Cawley said, noting that the 16-ounce returnable bottles were a fixture.

Mr. Cawley was on hand with area business leaders to promote the plan to privatize Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board “state stores” and make alcoholic beverages more available for Pennsylvania citizens. Later that evening, Mr. Cawley spoke at Lackawanna County Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner.

At Weis, Mr. Cawley went through the motions of purchasing a six-pack of Yuengling, which he called the “flagship” of the state’s brewing industry. He asked the clerk about the process for checking identification. All employees working registers go through Responsible Alcohol Management Training.

Weis officials say customers appreciate the convenience of having beer and would most likely appreciate being to able to purchase wine there as well.

“We want to bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century and bring the selection, convenience and prices that only the private sector can provide,” Mr. Cawley said, noting that Pennsylvania stands alone with Utah as one of just two states with a complete monopoly. Expenses at the state-run stores are outstripping revenue as more Pennsylvanians buy more alcohol in other states.

“Border bleed,” Mr. Cawley said, would be reversed if the state expanded beer, wine and liquor availability.

“I’m sure all those people report those purchases and pay the appropriate Pennsylvania tax,” he said in jest, citing the rarely invoked use tax. “But it’s a cumbersome process (and) we want to spare taxpayers of it by giving them the selection, convenience and price here in Pennsylvania.”

Also on hand was David McCorkle of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, a trade group of food and convenience stores formed decades ago for the purpose of expanding access to alcoholic beverages in the state.

Underscoring the lack of availability of wine and spirits, Mr. McCorkle said Pennsylvania has approximately one state-run wine and spirit shop for every 13,000 adults. The national average is one for every 1,200, he said.

He called the plan to privatize the state stores “an economic development initiative” that will return wine, beer and spirits sales to Pennsylvania.

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