Liquor sales in PA should be about consumer convenience and small businesses, not big profits for a few huge corporations

Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are scheduled to move several liquor privatization bills this week.

 

They all have one thing in common: Pennsylvania consumers aren't demanding any of them and the Pennsylvania Senate is unlikely to consider them. 

 

Consumers are happy with the modernization and convenience changes made last year to Pennsylvania's liquor laws -- there is no widespread public support for comprehensive privatization for privatization's sake.

 

There are only a few groups pushing to rush forward with more liquor changes so soon after last year's consumer-friendly improvements -- the chain grocery stores; big-box retailers and mega-wholesalers that want to corner the market at the expense of consumers and small, family-owned businesses; and the newspaper publishers who want to reap millions of dollars in advertising sales.

 

By pushing expanded alcohol sales, the state risks jeopardizing public safety in many counties and municipalities, reducing revenues for the Pennsylvania budget, and killing thousands of family-sustaining jobs in every community in the state.

 

Creating thousands more wine and liquor retailers will saturate the market in many counties and municipalities.

 

Access to a wide variety of wine and liquor selections in well-lit, clean and safe state stores will be replaced by a limited choice of major-brand items relegated to one or two aisles in chain grocery stores and big-box retailers like Costco and Wal-Mart.

 

Wine and liquor in Pennsylvania's state stores are priced competitively. Prices for consumers in states where wine and liquor were recently privatized have gone up, not down.

 

Combined markups and taxes in Pennsylvania for wine and liquor are comparable to and, in many cases lower than, those in privatized states.

 

The bills being considered this week will substantially increase the number of businesses selling wine and liquor but provide no additional money for alcohol control or law enforcement.

 

There are already too few officers monitoring Pennsylvania's 30,000 licensed establishment. Do we really want to add even more locations to already-saturated markets?

 

Many Pennsylvania municipalizes are already struggling with the crime and expense caused by nuisance bars. We need to find solutions to those problems before we add even more licensed locations.

 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that liquor privatization leads to increased excessive consumption. Pennsylvania has not examined how vastly expanding access to wine and spirits -- and oversaturating the market in several counties and municipalities -- will impact public health and safety.

 

Moving toward full privatization of wine and liquor sales in Pennsylvania would replace skilled jobs that provide financial security for thousands of families with a much smaller number of minimum-wage cashier jobs that don't protect public safety, improve customer service, or support families.

 

This blind leap toward full privatization of wine and liquor sales comes without an examination of the public health and safety impacts, no evaluation of whether Pennsylvania consumers believe full privatization is necessary or desirable in the wake of recent consumer-friendly improvements, and with no accounting of what privatization will cost Pennsylvania workers and taxpayers.

 

Pennsylvania should be working to benefit and protect consumers and small businesses, not rigging the system to put one of the state's most important and lucrative assets in the pocket of a few huge corporations.