As lawmakers continue to debate balancing the state budget, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) gave Pennsylvanians yet another reason to privatize the antiquated liquor system.
The agency unleashed a new set of regulations that will make it more difficult for restaurants to obtain certain wines and spirits. Over 1,200 wine and liquor products in Pennsylvania are only available via special liquor orders (SLO). Effective October 1st, the PLCB will require licensees to pay 100 percent up front for SLOs.
This places a tremendous burden upon restaurants, who often purchase large quantities of wine and spirits through the sluggish SLO process. As restaurateur Michael McCauley explained,
If I order wine, it might take five to seven days to actually get the wine in the building, to actually turn into a profit. Right now, when I order wine, I don't have to pay for it until I pick it up.
Under the new system, restaurants will have to wait longer for a return-on-investment.
Additionally, the agency will prohibit licensees from inspecting their orders upon pickup at state stores. Problems with orders must instead be taken up with the vendors – those who produce the alcohol but can’t sell it to consumers.
To recap: restaurant owners must pay up front for beverages that they can’t see or taste, and if there is an issue with the product, the PLCB will say, “Not our problem!” This is what “liquor modernization” looks like.
Along with last month’s price increases, these measures are but the most recent evidence that a “modernized” PLCB monopoly still harms Pennsylvanians. PLCB’s history is checkered with stories of corruption, abuse and fiscal shortcomings.
The time is right for liquor privatization.
Harrisburg’s tax-and-spend approach has failed. After raising taxes four times in the last eight years, we're left with a large budget deficit and a credit downgrade. Most of the proposed “solutions” are nothing but painful and unsustainable tax hikes.
Privatization, meanwhile, promises recurring revenues that would help balance the budget and a consumer-driven market in adult beverages. Full privatization could raise $1 billion in revenue without a dime in new taxes.
It’s time for Pennsylvania to bring its liquor system out of the dark ages.