Pennsylvania Senate passes historic liquor privatization bill

The Pennsylvania Senate passed liquor privatization legislation on Tuesday aimed at reforming the way alcoholic beverages are sold in Pennsylvania.

"The passage of liquor privatization by the Senate is historic and we applaud them for helping move Pennsylvania into the 21st century,” said House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, in an emailed statement to Pennsylvania Business Daily. 

House Bill 466, which passed the Senate by a 27-22 vote, was sent to the House. Passage of the bill would end the post-Prohibition state store system put in place by Pennsylvania’s then pro-temperance governor, Gifford Pinchot.

Passage of the legislation would allow grocery stores, restaurants, hotels and beer distributors to sell wine and liquor to-go. Licensed grocery stores could sell up to five bottles of wine and two bottles of liquor.

Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, hailed the Senate’s vote.

“This is a historic day for the people of Pennsylvania,” Barr said. “For the first time since the state’s antiquated state-store system was put in place more than 80 years ago, liquor privatization legislation has passed both chambers of the General Assembly. House Bill 466 would increase choice and convenience for Pennsylvanians. We look forward to the House voting to concur on this legislation and urge Gov. Wolf to fulfill the wishes of the majority of Pennsylvania consumers and sign this measure into law.”

Supporters say the plan will generate $220 million in revenues for fiscal year 2015-16. Opponents say more than 4,700 jobs would be lost if state-owned liquor stores are closed.

The bill includes a series of reforms for beer, liquor and wine sales in Pennsylvania. The bill allows beer distributers to expand their businesses to also sell liquor and wine. The bill also allows private wine wholesalers to sell products to Commonwealth customers. 

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board would still operate state stores until retail outlets are double the numbers of current state-operated outlets.