With Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor stores closed and its online ordering system handling only a limited number of customers each day, residents have been heading to neighboring states to purchase booze. In Delaware, drivers sporting Pennsylvania tags have been pulled over and sent home in violation of the state’s essential-business travel restrictions.
But, one reader asked The Inquirer, what about New Jersey? Troopers aren’t pulling over out-of-state drivers without reason, said Maj. Brian Polite of the New Jersey State Police, and New Jersey’s liquor stores are allowed to stay open under the state’s stay-at-home order.
Pennsylvania state police, however, will take issue with individuals bringing in alcohol purchases from New Jersey or any state. It is a violation of the stay-at-home order, said State Police spokesperson Brent Miller, and it’s a violation of the liquor code as well.
Under state law, a first offense for unlawful importation — bringing in booze purchased in another state — is a summary offense, subject to a fine of $25 per bottle, confiscation of the packages, and up to 90 days in prison. A second offense, or importation in connection with commercial transaction, can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor and lead to forfeiture of the vehicle used for transport.
Miller said there’s been an increase in complaints from neighboring state agencies about Pennsylvanians crossing borders to purchase liquor. Besides Delaware and New Jersey — where the executive director of the New Jersey Liquor Store Association reported a “tsunami of business” — stores in West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland have seen an influx in customers from the Keystone State.
The impending closure of Pennsylvania’s liquor stores, which set in statewide on March 18, prompted a record-setting surge in sales.
As of April 1, Pennsylvania reopened finewineandgoodspirits.com for home delivery orders, but enormous demand almost immediately crashed the site. To regulate flow, the state-store site has randomized access — meaning you win some, you lose some, but more often than not, you’ll lose — and is limiting purchases to a six-bottle maximum per transaction from a reduced catalog. All orders must be shipped to home or non-store addresses. Only one order per address will be fulfilled per day. On April 20, the state-run liquor stores reopened for curbside delivery. Consumers must call ahead and place an order at their nearest store. Each store will accept only one order per caller per day, and that order can’t exceed six bottles.
Under Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order, essential reasons for traveling to maintain the health and safety of one’s family or household members (including pets); obtaining supplies one needs to work from home; engaging in outdoor activity (while maintaining social distance); caring for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons; and travel required by law enforcement or court order. Anyone performing life-sustaining travel does not need paperwork to prove the reason for travel.