Under the Hat: Going Flat? - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Under the Hat: Going Flat?

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It's becoming clear this week that there are a lot of moving parts as lawmakers try to decide how or if to change how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania.

What will be a boon for some can quickly become a boondoggle for others.

One group waving a red flag this week is beer distributor owners.

They have longed complained that the law limits what they can sell to cases of beer only. Current licenses do not allow distributors to sell single bottles or six packs or wine and spirits for that matter.

The bill as currently proposed would allow distributors to get licenses to add wine and spirits, but could only sell to customers. Wholesalers would still supply the lucrative tavern and restaurant buyers.

But of greater concern is that the law would allow for unfettered competition in the beer business, meaning that small business owners would be going toe-to-toe with chains like WalMart and Giant Eagle.

Those large operations have the economy of scale to hold down prices until smaller competitors are choked off.

In other words, the law as it is currently proposed would put locally owned beer distributors out of business.

The counter offer is for minimum pricing, a system that would set a bottom line price that operators could not go below.

Some call that protectionism.  The beer distributors say it's just a fighting chance to stay alive.

The current proposal to change Pennsylvania's alcohol machine is over 200 pages long.

Any change to one area will no doubt affect business in another.

With supporters looking to pass something by the budget deadline of June 30th, the specter of unintended consequences becomes a real concern.

Some government controls are inevitable but if lawmakers aren't thorough in exploring the ramifications, some in the suds business could find themselves going flat.


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