Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website   Read more about this blog.
Posted: March 28th, 2013
Privatizing liquor stores: Much ado about nothing?

I read the letters to the editor in the Erie-Times News with great interest, especially when it comes to the topic of changing the current state of selling booze in this state.

Until we moved here over a decade ago, I didn’t know that Pennsylvania had state liquor stores. Everywhere I’ve lived up until then had regular, old liquor stores. In Massachusetts, we colloquially called them packies (short for package stores). Packies sold not just bottled liquor, but beer, wine and even mixers and sodas. Some even had cigarettes and tobacco products. You know, all those things subjected to sin taxes. Free enterprise and competition ruled the market.

But even in back college when I lived in the Bay State, friends would make the trek to the New Hampshire to shop at the state liquor store parked just over the border, which they said held unimaginable bargains. State liquor stores have better prices.

And they are very profitable, which is most likely why there are eighteen alcoholic beverage control states. Why then privatize?

According to House Bill 790, the state would basically sell off the state store system (620 stores) to the highest bidders with existing alcohol distributors getting the first shot. The initial public offering is estimated to raise big money, over a $1 billion.

And the state would rid its payroll of 3000 workers and their benefits, which according to the PLCB website ”may include: medical/hospital, supplemental, group life insurance, retirement and savings plans, paid leave and various other benefits and services.” There’s also the other costs that accompany owning a business as well, including renting space, paying accompanying utilities bills and insurance, etc.

And there’s the rub.

Privatizing liquor stores isn’t the end of the world. But I suspect, as it has in the states where I have lived, the retail cost of liquor will go up. But people will keep buying it because booze is big business.

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