Alcohol Regulation Reforms on Tap for Pennsylvania

Published December 15, 2016

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill reforming the state government’s restrictions on alcohol sales, allowing consumers to purchase six-packs of beer at privately owned alcohol distributors, such as gas stations.

Taking effect in January, House Bill 1196 also reduces the state’s “blue law” restrictions, which limit when businesses may sell alcohol to consumers, and allows government-licensed breweries to sell other breweries’ products without obtaining special permission from the government.

Before the law’s enactment, the state government required consumers to purchase beer in packs of 24 cans and prohibited consumers from purchasing beer before 11:00 a.m. on Sundays.

Removes Packaging Restrictions

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks), says the new law will benefit consumers by getting government out of their way.

“Consumers don’t want to be forced to buy a case of beer [when] they want to buy a six-pack,” Petri said. “This is the answer to what consumers expect. They want to be able to go to a distributor and not be forced to buy a whole case. They want to be able to buy smaller quantities.”

Petri says the state government’s restrictions made things more costly and difficult for consumers.

“Today’s consumers want to buy a six-pack of light beer or a six-pack of craft beer, because they could have guests coming over or something,” Petri said. “They want to be able to offer different items to guests and for their own consumption, and they don’t [want to] have to buy four cases and break them up in order to do that.”

Calls for More Reforms

Bob Dick, a senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation, says the new law will make only a small dent in the state government’s economic interference, because the new law does not dissolve the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the state’s government-run monopoly agency.

“It is definitely a step in the right direction, but we believe more needs to be done,” Dick said. “Specifically, I would say that the restrictions that are still in place on sales of wine and liquor need to be eased. That is why we have been pushing for liquor privatization and getting government out of this business.”

Dick says these laws overstep the bounds of government authority and do consumers a disservice.

“This simply is not a core function of government,” Dick said. “The state should have to divest itself from the business and allow for a competitive market, which is one of the only ways to offer consumers a choice and the competitive pricing they are looking for.”