James Backs Liquor Privatization Bill Approved by House

HARRISBURG – Rep. Lee James (R-Venango/Butler) today voted for a bill approved by the House that would end the state monopoly on liquor sales and provide more choices for Pennsylvania consumers.

“Selling alcohol is not a core function of state government,” James said.  “Our efforts should be focused on fixing our roads and bridges, supporting our schools, and promoting private-sector job creation.”

House Bill 790 would introduce direct competition into the liquor market in the short term by creating up to 1,200 new wine and spirits licenses in the Commonwealth.

In the first year, only beer distributors would be eligible to apply for the new licenses.  With the new license, a beer distributor would be able to sell beer, wine and liquor all at one location.

“This bill would provide convenience for consumers, something that is lacking in the current system,” James said.  “The private sector has proven time and time again that it is better at meeting the needs of customers.”

The proposal calls for a single license with varying fee structures based on whether the beer distributor intends to sell only wine, only liquor, or both together.  The cost of the licenses also would vary based the county in which the seller is located.  Licenses would need to be renewed every two years.  Renewal fees would be much smaller than the initial price to obtain the license.

After one year, any remaining licenses would be available to individuals or other establishments on a first-come, first-served basis.  License fees for these applicants would be much steeper.  These sellers also would need to renew their licenses every two years.

If the number of state liquor stores across the Commonwealth declines below 100 due to the new competition, the state-owned store system would be completely shut down.

The legislation also would allow restaurants to obtain a permit to sell up to six bottles of wine for customers to carry out.  Grocery stores also would be able to apply for a license to sell wine.

“This legislation would represent a significant improvement over the current system,” James said.  “I believe it’s time to move Pennsylvania forward and leave the Prohibition-era liquor system in the past where it belongs.”

The bill also includes provisions to help dislocated state store workers to find employment elsewhere within the state government or in another sector.  They would receive special consideration for state civil service jobs and money for training to acquire a private-sector job.

House Bill 790 includes provisions to deny the sale of alcohol to underage customers.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Representative Lee James
64th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact:  Dan Massing
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