NFIB Pennsylvania is working with a coalition of business groups toward comprehensive liquor law reform in our state. We believe that government should no longer be in the retail or wholesale liquor business because small privately owned businesses will do a better job. Consumers don’t currently have much selection, competitive cost or convenience due to Pennsylvania’s archaic liquor laws. NFIB member Rich Pluta, who owns a beer distributorship in the state had the editorial below published in several papers. We wanted to share it with you.
A few big ideas on liquor privatization
By Richard Pluta
After more than 80 years the consumers and businesses of our Commonwealth deserve more than a small attempt to correct an archaic system that is in desperate need of reform.
The system of selling adult beverages in Pennsylvania is flawed. It leads to high prices, a lack of choice and a major inconvenience for consumers who have to make three stops if they want to buy a case of beer, a six-pack, wine and liquor.
It’s because businesses, large and small, do not compete in an open market. True reform would open our markets and encourage competitiveness. It would have this state operate as almost every other state already does.
The rumors are flowing that in order to “pass something” our Legislature is considering a small attempt of reform.
Placing wine in some grocery stores, a few other steps and then claiming reform! Just doing something small and claiming a political win is not a solution!
Consumers will only be more confused and still have to drive to several stores to meet their needs. By maintaining the current wholesale system, prices will remain high and selection the same.
On the surface it may sound like a win for the consumers but they will soon see this is a failed attempt to change an antiquated system. Pennsylvania will retain the image of backwards and out-of-date.
Limited reform produces no real winners and consumers and businesses will continue to lose out.
Food merchants will still have only limited access to the market, beer distributors, like me, will continue to lose value, and manufacturers will have fewer outlets for their products.
With a small fix, restaurants and taverns would still purchase from an out-dated wholesale system. .
By leaving the state-run wholesale system intact, there will be little change in prices and selection because it will still be controlled by one agency. No competition means higher prices. That is a simple fact.
Real reform will satisfy consumers and help many small business people like me who feel like an entrepreneur with my hands tied behind my back.
Many states have very successful models for the sale of adult beverages. All stakeholders want an outcome that benefits their business, but with a collaborative effort these issues can be addressed. Look at other markets and see how varied interests can be profitable.
Valuable questions would be: Do your counterparts thrive in other states in an open market? Are restaurants and taverns doing well? Are package stores alive and well?
Do food merchants provide a good selection and price? Are wholesalers and suppliers selling products and making a reasonable profit? Is misuse of adult beverages any different in other states?
Instead of considering a “we did something” plan, there are ways of effecting real change.
A business to business coalition has focused on these problems and has built the framework for a plan that considers all parties. This free-market plan should be considered, and debated.
We have an obligation to transform Pennsylvania’s very outdated system into one that works well for the consumer, and provides them with price, selection, and convenience as they desire.
For our legislators to make small changes, leaving only hope for real reform down the road is a small solution. We expect more from our elected officials. Let’s bring Pennsylvania into the 21st Century.’
Richard Pluta is the owner of Newport Beverage.