Pennsylvania Tweaks Government Alcohol Sales Restrictions

Published July 19, 2016

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill reforming the state government’s restrictions on alcohol sales, allowing consumers to purchase more kinds of alcohol from privately owned stores and restaurants, instead of being required to buy from government-controlled stores.

House Bill 1690 was signed into law in June and takes effect in August. Government restrictions regulating which days consumers are permitted to purchase alcoholic drinks will also be removed under the legislation.

‘Small First Step’

Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis at The Commonwealth Foundation, says the new law is a move toward real reform.

“The wine that’s going to be sold in grocery stores [still] has to come from state stores,” Stelle said. “While you might be able to call it a small first step to privatizing wine and liquor sales, it could be much, much better than it is today.”

Stelle says Pennsylvania lawmakers should push for more consumer freedom, instead of forcing their constituents to settle for marginal changes.

“This could be an important first step towards more freedom and more convenience when it comes to alcohol sales, but it could have the opposite effect, by delaying additional reform,” Stelle said.

‘Step in the Right Direction’

Jay Ostrich, a spokesman for state Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Alleghany), the bill’s sponsor, says the new law is intended to create a thirst for greater freedom.

“What a step in the right direction toward full privatization,” Ostrich said. “People will be able to buy wine in grocery stores. Once they get a taste for privatization, the demands for government to get out of wine and liquor business will be definite. People will be voting on this issue with their wallets.

“Once people get a taste of freedom they always want more, and we believe that they will push towards full privatization,” Ostrich said.

Gabrielle Cintorino ([email protected]) writes from Nashville, Tennessee.