On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House overwhelmingly passed HB 1690 to modernize Pennsylvania’s Prohibition-era alcohol sales. The bill passed the Senate in December of 2015. By all indications, Governor Wolf will sign the legislation into law. If HB 1690 is signed, it will make the purchase of wine and beer somewhat more convenient for consumers.
The biggest changes will be that some grocery stores will now be able to sell wine in addition to beer if they have a separate checkout area. Also, some gas stations meeting specific criteria will also be able to sell beer. Gas stations will require special approval from the PLCB and must have a separate checkout area for beer purchases. Unfortunately, the PLCB will still control wholesale of wine and spirits. State stores will still be the only show in town when it comes to making the purchase of spirits. Furthermore, the PLCB will now be able to engage in promotional pricing to encourage increased consumption of alcohol, but they will also be charged with enforcing the law and encouraging "responsible" consumption.
One final negative we came across when reviewing the fiscal notes for the legislation was the inclusion of $2 million in corporate welfare. Pennsylvania government will now be able to award up to $1 million in grants to increase the production of wine and an additional $1 million in grants to increase the production of beer and malt beverages. Oddly enough, Pennsylvania became the number one craft beer producer in the country earlier this year without any government assistance. Keep this $2 million over the course of the upcoming budget debate when you hear someone say spending has been cut to the bone.