Looks like the PA Tavern Owners Association is the latest group of rent-seekers to object to liberalizing alcohol sales in PA.
What’s so aggravating about this is that the Turzai bill doesn’t expropriate the tavern license holders nearly as much as it would in a better world.
Tavern license holders are mad that the Turzai bill would get rid of their monopoly on six-pack sales, and open up the six-pack market to beer distributors.
But that doesn’t go nearly far enough! Not only should beer distributors be allowed to sell six-packs, but so should every grocery store.
Right now the case law allows grocery stores who have a seating area to get a tavern license. This is dumb. It creates unfair competition between grocery stores, and also forces bars and restaurants to compete with grocery stores for a limited supply of tavern licenses.
Any grocery store should be allowed to pay a flat fee to sell beer, wine and liquor. Tavern owners and beer distributors would hate this, but zero consumers would, and that’s who politicians should be representing in this fight.
The other thing a decent alcohol market reform bill would do, which the Turzai bill does not do, is uncap the number of tavern licenses, or print so many that they become worthless assets.
Currently tavern licenses for bars and restaurants are capped at 1 license per 3000 people per County. This makes for uncompetitive bar and restaurant markets, needlessly holding back redevelopment of PA’s older downtowns as entertainment clusters.
Helping cities and promoting competition that benefits consumers are more important goals for state policy than keeping the regulatory rents flowing to incumbent tavern license holders. We need an alcohol reform bill that the Tavern Owners Association is much much angrier about.