Time to end alcohol privatization

It may — finally — be last call for Pennsylvania’s archaic liquor laws.

Pennsylvania Republicans have proposed opening the barrels of the final holdout — hard liquor — with plans to open the sale of liquor to private retailers. That means places like Weis Markets and Giant could add liquor to their cafes’ shelves, eliminating another hurdle for state consumers.

The long-standing booze barriers in the commonwealth have been crumbling for some time. Beginning with the approval of beer sales in retail stores nearly a decade ago and wine last year, adding liquor seems inevitable for these markets.

Bills have been proposed in both Pennsylvania legislative chambers, with proponents rightfully noting the time has come to remove another limitation to consumers. Breaking down the system has taken some time, simply because it has been so deeply rooted here for so long. Generations of Pennsylvanians have grown up knowing beer was purchased at one location and wine and liquor were a separate stop, to a state-operated store with limited hours — only recently expanded to include Sunday sales.

The system has long been lucrative for state coffers, but even the revenue stream isn’t what it once was. State Rep. Kurt Masser said last year the system isn’t as profitable and will become less so in the future.

The time has come to break away.

“The primary focus is to provide to my constituents a one-stop shop experience,” House sponsor Rep. Mike Reese (R-59) told website billypenn.com. In the other chamber, sponsor Randy Vulakovich (R-38) told the same site, “We’ve already expanded beer and wine with a positive public reaction. This to me seems like the next logical step.”

It certainly does.

Retailers have long highlighted the added convenience for customers — although the check-out restrictions remain frustrating. The bill would allow customers to purchase 3,000 mililiters — four regular-sized bottles — for “off-premises consumption” during one transaction. Revenue would be deposited into the State Stores Fund, which would then be transferred to the general fund each June, so monies would still flow into state coffers.

This slow drip in eliminating Pennsylvania’s frustratingly antiquated liquor laws has run its course.

It’s time to eliminate this state-run privatization and open the market to all interested parties.