The PLCB: Fermented Grape’s Gatekeeper
Last week 90.5 WESA published a story about the PA Preferred Wine Program—a tool designed to help promote Pennsylvania wines. The program allows in-state wine producers to apply for the chance to sell up to 10 products in state stores.
According to the rules governing the program, wine producers must pay $150 for each wine application, which can only be submitted during a short “listing period.” Apparently, this is what qualifies as a “business-friendly practice” in the world of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).
In reality, the PLCB hinders entrepreneurs looking to sell their products in Pennsylvania. One PLCB-created roadblock is the uncompetitive price system imposed on its vendors. WESA explains:
That system can be a non-starter for some wineries. Reduce their profit margin too much to offset the state markup and they won’t make any profit; sell the wine at a higher price and potentially turn off customers. Some Pennsylvania wineries are simply too small to provide enough wine to sell in stores, while others only want their product available at their home-base, liquor lawyer Mark Flaherty said. [Bold mine.]
If wineries don’t believe they can make a profit selling to state stores, their consumer base in Pennsylvania shrinks dramatically because of the PLCB's retail monopoly:
Pennsylvania is one of the largest buyers of wine and spirits in the world. Because the state owns the system, there’s only one gatekeeper accepting or rejecting the products that make it into the stores.
Concentrating so much power in one agency has predictably led to corruption and mismanagement. To continue with the current system as-is would be a slap in the face to Pennsylvanians. The people of this state deserve better.
To improve the system, the state's liquor laws need to be modified to reflect the age of Uber, rather than the age of Capone.