It’s with some hesitation that I mention to you that I was recently quoted in a Metro.us article about my thoughts on the rebranding efforts of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, most of which were probably too obscenity-laden to print.
I’m not hesitant about the article itself, mind you, but I am hesitant about giving the PLCB any more attention at all, at this point. Primarily because there’s no love lost between me and the PLCB.
Actually, there’s no love between me and the PLCB, period. I hate the PLCB.
My friend Lew Bryson, also quoted in the article, puts it best when he describes the PLCB attempting to rebrand itself: “lipstick on a pig.”
To adequately describe how utterly f*cked up the situation regarding alcohol sales is under the state-run PLCB monopoly here in PA, I refer you to PA Rep. Adam Harris’s comments in a December HeraldMailMedia.com article, in which he describes PA liqour reform legislation that went into effect in 2016:
“…the two key components that most people will notice is that they allowed for the sale of wine in grocery stores and other outlets and, beginning in mid-January, beer distributors will be able to sell down to the single unit, including allowing for mix-and-match sales of six packs.”
Eighty-three years after the end of Prohibition in the USA, Pennsylvania residents can buy wine and beer in the same way that most other states have already allowed for decades. Maddeningly, almost incomprehensibly, that is touted as progress under the PLCB and monopoly system in PA. Nothing is said, of course, of the issues with prices, how in-state wine producers’ products are treated, overall selection, shipping limitations, store employee knowledge-levels, and quality of service; because, hey, you’re allowed to mix a six pack now!
The PLCB remains a nightmare for knowledgeable PA wine consumers, who will only constitute a growing number of the population, given how easily wine product information is disseminated and consumed in our current, ultra-competitive wine market. And the fact that it remains such an anachronistic but powerful body in that market ought to scare the entire wine segment, at least a little bit, because no monopoly is going to make doing business easy on the back-end (there just isn’t enough incentive for mutuality – think about it).
It’s long past time to retire this dinosaur, and privatize the tiers of the alcohol business in PA; not just for the benefit of the Commonwealth’s residents, but quite probably for the benefit of the entire wine industry.
It has occurred to me recently that Pennsylvania’s monopoly control of the purchase, distribution, and sale of alcohol in the state is doomed.
I cannot tell you exactly when it will fall, or exactly how it will fall, but I think I can safely tell you that fall it will, and that we can safely speculate as to why it is doomed.
This occurred to me when I was being interviewed by Tricia L. Nadolny, the Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer who covers Chester County (before you poo-poo that beat, you need to understand that Chester County is one of the nation’s more affluent, has nationally ranked public school systems, and is often cited in top twenty lists of best counties to live in the U.S.). Nadolny was interested in my thoughts about the fate of Malvern lawyer Arthur Goldman’s wine collection, which was seized when he was convicted in a sting operation of selling wines (that you can’t get in PA) to friends, pretty much at cost. Intrepid wine blogger and wine PR guy Tom Wark is also quoted in the article, accurately assessing PA as the single worst state in the U.S. to live for wine lovers.
Here’s the thing: the PLCB and PA’s liquor control are ultimately doomed because enough information on alternatives now flows freely and quickly enough that any PA resident with half a brain and an Internet connection can grasp that the PLCB’s monopoly constitutes a form of repression on free commerce for people who are budding wine enthusiasts.
The logic behind that is simple, and, I think, bolstered by the Inquirer article itself, and, just as importantly, the hundred-plus comments that followed it…
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Last week, after I spoke out against NJ Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan publicly dissing his own wine-buying constituents, I received quite a bit of feedback (comments and e-mail) about something I wasn’t talking about. Namely, not reporting from the battlefield of the wine shipping fracas taking place among the rolling hills of my home state, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (one of – if not the – worst control states in our fair Union).
In response, I can offer two tidbits as potential justification:
1) Blogger Lew Bryson is doing a fine job of detailing all of the latest PLCB debacles and on-again/off-again satutus of PA’s move towards Privitization, and I’ve little to offer above-and-beyond Lew’s excellent and opinionated coverage. For a pertinent example, check out Lew’s tirade about the state’s failed automated wine kiosks – turns out the PLCB knew that the kiosks had little chance of succeeding before they deployed them (I had a similar view of their potential success published around the same time).
2) I’m anticipating the potential for a lot more insider coverage coming soon on the PLCB and the drama of the changing state of alcohol distribution in PA, since I’ve agreed to be on a focus group for a PLCB Wine Advisory Council member.
Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve been hand-picked by a member of the PLCB’s Eastern PA Regional Advisory Panel to join a cabinet/focus group, which has as one of its priorities advancing the pace of change to improve the currently (very) sad state of wine distribution affairs in the Commonwealth…
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Yesterday, NPR.com posted one of the latest Radio Times episodes in which host Marty Moss-Coane interviews PLCB Chair Patrick Stapleton and anti-PLCB Blogger Lew Bryson. The two face off for a short time, and Lew delivers a bit of a smack-down. Several callers also mentioned that PA seems to have one of the most bizarre sets of alcohol sales and distribution laws that they’ve ever seen, and challenged several of Stapleton’s assumptions (hats off to ‘em!). The interview triggered the recently-dormant anti-PLCB genes that I have oozing around in my DNA.
Personally, I was flabbergasted by some of the statements that came out of Stapleton’s mouth during this interview, because they demonstrate what feels like a rather serious lack of respect that the PLCB seems to have for its own customers; customers who, it seems, the PLCB would prefer don’t (or, perhaps, they assume aren’t intelligent enough to) refer to things that might give them a different view on PA wine sales than that being painted by the PLCB. You know, pesky and irrelevant things, like facts.
My take on some of Stapleton’s statements from the interview are below after the jump, along with the podcast stream of the full NPR episode. I feel a rant coming on… you’ve been warned…
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