Public Beer Laws Forum This Thursday in Philly

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Can’t make it out this Thursday, but maybe friends of the blog Jake Blumgart or Randy LoBasso could be persuaded to report on this for us…

From the Lew Bryson blog:

I’m going to be on the panel at another Philly Beer Scene Beer Laws Forum at Yards Brewing again, this Thursday at 7 PM. Hope you can come out; we had about 100 people last time, and I’d love to see more of you this time. Details on the forum can be found here, but I’d like to use this post to get you prepped up for the debate.

The panel’s going to be State Senator Chuck McIlhinney, representing the PA Legislature, Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing, representing the brewers of Pennsylvania, and Mike Gretz Sr. of Gretz Beer Distributors, representing the beer wholesalers, Tom Kehoe of Yards, who is moderating the thing, and me, who’s pretty much representing you, the beer drinker…or as I like to call us, the fourth tier.

We wanted to let you know what kind of things are going to come up. These are some questions we’ve been tossing around.

  • First and most important: what can people do that’s effective to stand for what they believe in about changing the state’s liquor code? How do we effect change through the Legislature?
  • We’d like to ask you, our beer-centric audience, how much spirits you buy in PA. Do you buy much wine and spirits at all, and when you do, do you buy them here, or do you cross the border. We’ll do a show of hands, but if you want to comment here, that’s good too. We’d also like to know if privatization of the state liquor stores interests you…and if it does, where do beer sales fit in that?
  • Why is a simple sixpack sale change to the Liquor Code is so hard to make when Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support it?
  • What do you want? Do you want to do away with the case law? Privatize the state stores and make them “all alcohol” stores? Sell beer and wine in every grocery store? Or just increase the number of licenses?
  • And what seems like a very simple, reasonable request from Tom Peters at Monk’s Cafe: Can it be arranged that a restaurant licensee could get a “one-time” permit to receive beer from a currently unregistered brewery, pay the applicable taxes, and not have to go through an Importing Distributor?

That’s what we’re thinking about. We hope you’re thinking about coming out Thursday night. Remember: privatization isn’t over, the sixpack law change isn’t over, they’re just on legislative holiday. Next year it all starts up again, and we want something to happen. This is where that starts.

And yes, the bar at the brewery will be open for business. Debating is thirsty work.

Liquor license reform is an issue that is much more important than you think, even if you don’t drink. The license cap is bad for smaller city economies, and bad for restaurant worker wages since it holds down profits in places without alcohol on the menu.

I’ve spilled a lot of pixels on here and over on the other blog making the case for uncapping liquor licenses and thinking about a political strategy that could get around the massive political economy problems would-be reformers are facing down.

I’ve come around to the view that something like Rep. Dan Moul’s wine-only license proposal is the most politically-realistic strategy for expanding the number of restaurants with an alcohol menu. Crucially, Rep. Moul doesn’t want to regulate the licenses under the County Quota system, and would make them available for purchase to any restaurant that wants to buy one.

I’d really like to see a similar arrangement for beer-only licenses, also not subject to the County Quota system.

It would still be very stupid that any restaurant wanting to serve alcohol of all kinds couldn’t just pay somebody to do that, but something like this would probably be an easier political lift than liquidating all the current tavern license holders.

Restaurants and bars who really want to serve all alcohol types continue to work under the County Quota system, meanwhile we stop suffocating PA’s restaurant market with a fake scarcity of beer and wine.

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