Last Call for PLCB’s In-House Brands?

In an interview with the Tribune-Review, Chairman of the PLCB Joseph “Skip” Brion said it’s no secret he favors ending the PLCB’s in-house wine brands.

Yep, in case you missed it, you read that correctly: Taxpayers have invested in their very own in-house government brands that compete directly with private labels. To make matters worse, the PLCB has spent millions of dollars on advertising and marketing these in-house brands.

But now, Chairman Brion wants to put an end to this practice. While the chairman’s decision to do away with the PLCB’s in-house brands should be applauded, the fact is this effort to “modernize,” is, as our resident military expert Jay Ostrich likes to say, “Like putting screen doors on submarines.”

Think we’re being too harsh? Here are some of PLCB’s greatest hits:

  • The agency spent more than $66 million taxpayer dollars (and counting) on the Enterprise Resource Planning system, a computerized inventory management tool that caused widespread shortages and surpluses at PLCB distribution centers, crippling commerce, and costing two-and-a-half times the original plans (and counting, with estimates nearing $100 million).
  • As if that wasn’t bad enough, the PLCB management demanded purchasers order excess inventory due to the shortages. This led to a surplus in inventory, some of which had to be sent to non-temperature-controlled trailers, despite heat exceeding 100 degrees.
  • The PLCB wasted millions on a failed wine kiosk program, which could have been avoided had the PLCB heeded the advice of its advisors and nixed the program.
  • At least the PLCB is a cash cow for Pennsylvania, right? Not so. The agency ended the fiscal year withnegative $9.8 millionin net assets.

The problem with modernization, in a nutshell, is a failed and costly system remains in place, leaving open the possibility of abuse by those in charge – a practice so well established in the PLCB that two external investigations were launched as well as an internal probe all in the last year.

The only real way to modernize Pennsylvania wine and liquor sales is to fully privatize the state stores. Pennsylvania’s adults deserve choice and competition, not an antiquated, ineffective, and wasteful government monopoly.  We eagerly await the day when we can announce last call for government-sold alcohol.

Until then, stay thirsty my comrades.