Pennsylvania’s un-beerable Beer Laws

beer-glass.jpgMany years ago I walked into a bar to buy beer for a gathering; I needed four six-packs and it was the best place to go. Well I asked the bartender for my beers she said she could only sell me two six-packs, but that if I took those two to my car, I could come back and buy another two. That is the silliness of liquor laws here in Pennsylvania. You buy your six-packs in bars, your cases at beer distributors (that until a couple of years ago were closed on Sundays), and your wine and spirits at state owned wine and spirit stores (also until recently closed on Sundays). So it was great pleasure to read that Pennsylvania is considering making those beer laws a little more consumer friendly by allowing distributors to sell smaller than a case of beer. For some reason this is controversial.

Small beer brewers are saying that they can’t afford to retool to sell smaller than a case of beer. (Really?) They think this change only benefits the big brewers. Bullshit. Do you know how many times I’ve refrained from buying a beer because I hadn’t tasted it, and didn’t want to get stuck with beers I didn’t like (that Blue Moon Honey Moon Summer Ale sounded like a good idea at the time). I would love to walk into a distributor and buy 3 or 4 six-packs of different beers (actually I’d prefer to walk in to the supermarket for this, but that’s a fight for another day). This is a change that will benefit the consumer immediately and beer distributors in the long run. And honestly – I’m not about to give up my Paulaner Hefeweizen for a six of Bud.

Just like the bar owners who were small-minded and short-sighted about banning cigarette smoking in Philadelphia, these brewers can only see the risk of losing sales as opposed to the potential of finding new customers.

I also take issue with the belief that the state is there to help these smaller businesses at the expense of consumers and common sense. The state does bear some responsibility in fostering an atmosphere that supports small business, but it should be through laws that are fair.

So with all this I’ll be calling my congressman to express my support for this change (I’ve called him for other reasons – so I won’t feel guilty about calling him about a beer law). Hopefully in a few months Pennsylvania will join bastions of liberality such as North Carolina and Tennessee in allowing their citizens a more liberal beer law.

Cheers.

  • Tony

    Piermani’s on East 2nd is open from 12:00-5:00 on Sundays. It’s the greatest thing to happen in Conshohocken since the Matsonford Bridge was opened.

  • http://fortyninepercenter.blogspot.com/ joey

    Good one.
    I won’t even go into a bar because of the smokers.
    I don’t live in the city. So, I would have to go into the city just to have a beer without getting soaked in smoke smell.

    In the suburbs, you are getting second-hand smoke. So, you have to just deal with it. The beer laws are completely foolish.

  • grace

    I used to bartend, and learning the laws around beer sales in PA practically takes a doctorate. The whole “go outside and come back in between six packs” was always hilarious to me. But it was the loophole to a silly law that annoyed the bars and the customers.

  • Spencer

    Grace – Yeah – apparently the beer is supposed to be in a bag (wasteful and unnecessary since six-packs are already portable).

    Joey – Conshy has two bars that are smoke-free now – Lucky Dog (Grace doesn’t like it, but what does she know?) and Guppies. They weren’t my favorite bars, but now are simply because they’re smoke free.

    Tony – All beer distributors in PA should be open on Sundays now (apparently it was never a law that they couldn’t, just a practice). Piermani’s is better than the other place in Conshy, but I miss the old drive through that used to be on Matsonford Road.

  • grace

    I wonder why beer has to be in a bag. Will it blind the eyes of young children? Taunt the appetites of alcoholics? Shame the consumer in whose hands it sits? Cause the removal of clothing, the pulling of hair and the gnashing of teeth?

  • http://www.merujo.com Merujo

    All the strange laws about booze out in ye olde original colonies have always struck me as bizarre and archaic. Growing up in Illinois, I assumed it was the norm coast-to-coast that you could do your grocery shopping, get a prescription, and all the booze you could carry in a single store. Ahhh, the freedom of the Midwest! ;)

  • Spencer

    When we go to North Carolina every year – it’s one of the most enjoyable things; going to the supermarket and just buying whatever six-packs you want to try. And that’s North Carolina.

  • Bryn

    I moved to the Philly area from the UK in ’83 and was dumbfounded at the archaic liquor laws.

    I still think it’s stupid to be expected to pay close on $200 for a case of very high quality beer when I’d be happy buying a couple of bottles.

    I just brought a single bottle of Sam Adams Chocolate Bock though. Why am I allowed to do that, is there some secret handshake for Sam Adams?

  • Scott

    This is totally crazy. I’m from Dallas where you can get six packs galore from any number of beer stores as well as grocery stores. So I’m in town for a couple of nights, in Hershey, and I walk across the street to the beer store only to find mass amounts of alcohol, all in cases. I sight I’ve never really seen. So the guy tells me to go to the bar and buy the beer. Weird! No bar, and I mean NO BAR, in Dallas will sell you beer to go…ok, I left for a while and now I’m a little buzzed, lol. That’s about all.

  • Spencer

    Funny – my wife just got back from Wegmans here in PA – it’s one of the first supermarkets to carry beer – they got around the rule by putting a restaurant in the supermarket with a bar and selling six packs to go. Unfortunately she ran into one of our stupid rules – you can only buy 2 six packs at a time, and she had 3. So the clerk told her she had to leave the store, and come back and buy more.

    How stupid is this state?

  • AAA

    PA Sucks when it come to buying beer! I had to purchase two siz pack of Sam Adams and it was $36.50. I almost fell over when the bartender told me that. they need to change this law, until then I buy my beer in Ohio.

  • Dave

    What makes all you obvious YUPPY types think six pack prices will be any lower if sold in supermarkets or beer distributors? They will all in time level off at an average way higher than case prices. Personally, I like paying the equivalent of 2 1/2 six packs for a 30 pack case. If you're buying beer for at home, why not stock up. Anything less is just lightweight and useless.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/speener speener

      Why do I think beer will be lower in supermarkets and beer distributors – because there are examples where they are. There are states where you can buy beer in a supermarket for a lot cheaper than PAs outmoded distributor system. There is no competition, where in states like Delaware, Ohio, or North Carolina, the states doesn't protect sellers at the expense of consumers.

      Secondly – since I can assume that you're obviously a person that thinks there is no reason for a beer other than Bud and Bud Lite – this probably escapes you, but there are beers out there beyond what Anheuser Busch, Coors, and Miller sell. Being able to buy a six-pack allows you to experiment with other beers without getting stuck with a whole case. Further more, because since supermarkets can't sell beer, they're prohibited from selling their own lines – so no Trader Joe Beer for people in PA.

      Dave – I know you own a bar, because otherwise this would all be obvious to you.

  • Darryl

    What makes them obvious "YUPPY" types? After all isn't the backbone of "Real America", Joe Six-Pack? Doesn't Joe Six-Pack deserve the opportunity to buy his beer with as minimal government interference as possible? Hell, in PA they've made it near impossible to be a Joe Six-Pack. If anything sir, I think that Joe Case of 24 seems far more "YUPPYISH".