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Beer Distributors in PA Irked By Privatization Plans

Governor Tom Corbett’s plan to sell off state liquor stores and allow consumers to buy wine, liquor, and beer from a wider array of retailers is rankling some businesses.

Pennsylvania has more than 1,200 beer distributors and their product is already privatized.

Under the governor’s plan, supermarkets and convenience stores would be able to buy licenses to sell beer.

That’s a scary prospect for Randy King, spokesman for the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania.

He said Governor Corbett should give more consideration to beer distributors in his quest for more customer convenience.  

“The long game on this that if you expand beer and wine sales into every grocery, convenience, and big-box store, it will ultimately have a very negative impact on the business model that beer distributors have used and followed at state direction for 75 years.”

King said distributors also aren’t pleased with the price they’d have to pay for licenses.

“As proposed, a beer distributor would have to spend $300,000 or more to be able sell beer in all packaging types, as well as sell wine and liquor, while grocery, convenience, big box, and drug stores would only have to spend 35,000 on a license to sell beer and wine.”

But distributors didn’t pan the proposal in its entirety. It includes one thing they’ve long fought for: allowing them to sell six-packs, and not just cases.  That "enhanced" distributor license would cost a one-time $150,000 fee.  King says they'll work with state officials to make sure beer distributors wouldn't be put out of businesses by liquor privatization.

The governor says his plan would yield one billion dollars over four years, which he proposed reserving for an education block grant program for schools.

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