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Pennsylvania Senate Narrows Privatization Focus

May 16, 2013

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett’s push for total privatization of the state’s wine and spirits retail monopoly appears to be on ice, with state senators suggesting they could support some loosening of alcohol retail restrictions but not a mandatory sell-off of the state’s retail and wholesale infrastructure.

The Pennsylvania Senate’s Law and Justice committee held the second of three hearings on the subject Tuesday. Following the hearing, committee chair Charles McIlhinney told reporters he could envision expanding retail wine and spirits sales to about 12,000 venues that are currently licensed only for beer—including some restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores—and granting the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board the purview to determine when accessibility has grown enough to allow the closing of one of its state-owned wine and spirits shops in a given area.

Corbett’s plan, a version of which passed the Pennsylvania house of representatives in March, would see the state’s 1,200 existing wine and spirits stores’ licenses auctioned off, with beer distributors offered first right of refusal (brewers like A-B, MillerCoors and Yuengling have been critical of that proposal, fearing it could lead to wine and spirits stealing shelf space from beer statewide). McIlhinney said his constituents are most concerned about price and accessibility of wine and spirits, not whether the store is state-owned or private, and also hinted that privatization of the state’s wholesale wine and spirits operation in the final bill is doubtful.

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