Happy new year, Pennsylvania beer drinkers: Getting your hands on a six pack or two will become as easy as ordering a pizza.
And this new convenience for consumers came about through a simple letter to the Liquor Control Board this fall.
Chris Fetfatzes asked the LCB what it would take to be able to deliver beer from Hawthornes in South Philadelphia, one of two bars he owns with his wife, Heather Annechiarico.
The restaurant and beer shop was closed by fire in February.
Fetfatzes and his wife want to provide home delivery when it reopens - much as services such as Instacart can deliver bottles of wine and spirits to one's doorstep. Beer distributors also can deliver to private homes.
Fetfatzes has more than a passing acquaintance with the retail beer trade, as his family owns Bella Vista Beer Distributors, down the block from Hawthornes.
Though addressed directly to Fetfatzes, the Dec. 5 advisory opinion from LCB chief counsel Faith Diehl applies to all retail establishments already licensed to sell beer.
Once a restaurant obtains a separate "transporter-for-hire" license, it may deliver two six-packs (no more than 192 ounces) of beer to one address.
The beer must be prepaid by debit or credit card over the phone — no handing over cash at the door (tipping is allowed). And just like at a bar or a store, sales to minors or visibly intoxicated people are prohibited.
"One of the clerks [at the LCB] I spoke with told me, 'What you're dealing with here is literally ground-breaking stuff,' " said Fetfatzes. "I've wanted to do [beer delivery] ever since we originally opened."
Many other bar and restaurant owners have long felt the same way. Amy Christie, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage & Tavern Association, had written her own letter to the LCB, asking in part for a clarification.
Christie is thrilled at what the LCB opinion means for her members. "We've been asking this question for years, but never got the answer we wanted," she said. "This is a win for the whole industry."
The go-ahead from the LCB was timely for Fetfatzes and Annechiarico; Hawthornes is set to reopen in early January. Fetfatzes doesn't yet have his transporter-for-hire license in hand — it costs about $1,000 — but is already far enough along in the application process that he is confident that he will have it soon.