On Tuesday, June 7th, 2016, the Pennsylvania House of Representative approved a plan that was amended by the Senate allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores.
The House vote was 157-31, and it was a bipartisan vote. Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) announced the results of the vote. Reed said the following in a statement, “We’re in the 21st century, and our constituents ask for and expect better convenience and accessibility; this legislation provides it… These improvements to wine, beer and liquor sales include a number of changes requested by consumers and will allow consumers to buy wine at their grocery stores by Thanksgiving.”
If Wolf signs the bill, grocery stores would be allowed to sell take-out wine. In addition, restaurants and hotels could sell take-out wine. Only those businesses with existing licenses would be permitted to sell wine. Customers could buy up to four bottles of wine at a time.
The bill, known as House Bill 1690, has several liquor and wine sale reforms. The bill also makes it possible for private wine wholesalers to sell wine directly to customers in Pennsylvania. According to Reed, the bill will generate millions in revenue. Reed went on to say, “This legislation will generate approximately $150 million initially and growing revenues each year to aid the budge… It is time to put that money where it belongs, instead of propping up an antiquated and outdated liquor system.”
The bill requires the monetary worth of the state store system to be studied. In addition, there would be proposals to eventually privatize liquor sales. Though the bill passed in the Senate last year, House Republicans would not vote on the bill due to the fact that it did not allow for the whole system to be privatized.
Governor Tom Wolf is expected to sign the bill. He said the following in a statement regarding the House passing the bill, “Today the House concurred with the Senate on historic liquor modernization legislation that provides greater customer convenience to the people of Pennsylvania… As I have always said, my goal is to modernize the sale of liquor and beer in Pennsylvania to ensure convenience and satisfaction for customers. Once the bill reaches my desk, I will conduct a final review of the legislation to ensure it meets my goals of enhancing the customer experience, increasing much-needed revenue to help balance our budget, and bringing our wine and spirits system into the 21st century.”
Wolf has recently been supportive of expanding liquor sales in Pennsylvania. In late May, he sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) asking them to approve license applications allowing businesses to sell as much as 192 ounces of brewed or malt beverages. The PLCB approved nine applications after Wolf sent his letter.
On Wednesday, June 8th, State Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Harborcreek) issued a statement in support of House Bill 1690. Sonney said the following:
“Pennsylvanians are now a signature away from being able to buy wine at their local grocery store and beer at their nearby convenience store. This legislation is not the full liquor privatization many of us have been pursuing, but it is a bill that answers consumers’ consistent call for convenience.
“House Bill 1690 would also allow tourists who visit out-of-state wineries to have that product shipped back home, provided the state they are visiting has similar laws in place. Direct shipment also benefits Erie County wineries, as anyone visiting them from another state will be able to have wine shipped to their homes.
“As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’m also pleased with the estimated $150 million in non-tax revenue this legislation will produce. The money will go a long way toward increasing education funding in Pennsylvania.”
State Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) also issued a statement supporting House Bill 1690 on Wednesday. Gabler said the following:
“Over the past few years, our citizens have clearly sent the message that they desire more choice and convenience in the beverage marketplace. This legislation takes a major step in providing just that. When this bill is signed into law, Pennsylvanians will be able to buy wine at their local grocery store and beer at their nearby convenience store. Our citizens who travel out of state will be able to have products from wineries they visit shipped to their doorstep – something they cannot currently do. In turn, our local wineries could provide the same service for visiting tourists.
“In addition, the estimated $150 million in state revenue we expect to realize with the enactment of this legislation will assist in balancing the state without the broad-based tax increases that some continue to advocate. I proudly voted for this bill and I will continue to support commonsense proposals that protect taxpayers and benefit consumers.”
State Representatives Mike Regan (R-Dillsburg), Seth Grove (R-Dover), Keith Gillespie (R-Hellam), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York Township), Kate Klunk (R-Hanover), and Stan Saylor (R-Red Lion) issued a statement in support of House Bill 1690 on Tuesday, June 7th:
“Today, we are proud to join our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in supporting House Bill 1690, which is the first step towards complete liquor privatization in the Commonwealth. This legislation will expand consumer convenience by allowing for wine sales at grocery stores and six-pack beer sales at convenience stores. It will also allow direct shipment of out-of-state wine to the doorstep of Pennsylvanians’ and permit wineries in the Commonwealth to do likewise in states that have similar laws in place.
“House Bill 1690 will also provide $150 million in non-tax revenue for the budget, which is an important consideration during this difficult budget year and our efforts to oppose broad-based tax increases. While we continue to support full liquor privatization for the Commonwealth, this legislation will require the Liquor Control Board to consider free market reforms for savings and efficiency. We thank House Speaker Rep. Mike Turzai for his continued leadership on this issue.”
You can read more about House Bill 1690 here.