Sometimes, New Jersey offers Pennsylvanians the unthinkable, something so fine it feels naughty.

Such as selling beer, wine, and liquor under one roof.

And it is naughty - illegal, in fact - for Keystone State residents to drive back over the bridge, trunks rattling with bottles of booty purchased in New Jersey.

Yet they do it. For all the sprucing-up of Pennsylvania's State Store system in recent years, many customers still cast a kind of personal vote against that system by shopping across the river.

Border bleed, state liquor officials call it.

Police rarely ticket this offense, and the price of gas and bridge tolls isn't enough to keep the parking lot of Canal's Wine & Liquors in Pennsauken from filling up, on a blustery Thursday lunch hour, with cars bearing Pennsylvania tags.

In this crowd, at least, there was support for Gov.-elect Tom Corbett's vow to launch the latest drive to privatize the State Stores.

"We'd love to see it," said Jason Cohen, 38, a Rutgers University law professor who lives in South Philly and was loading his trunk on Thursday with beer and the makings of sangria. "It's an alien world here that you can't buy alcohol where you want to."

But the feeling is by no means unanimous. John Alston, 81, of Philadelphia's Wynnefield section, worried that his taxes could go up if the state let go of liquor-store revenue - a view shared by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and other foes of privatization.

"You may save a couple bucks, but it's not that simple," said Alston, who visits Jersey every two or three weeks to gas up the car and buy ingredients for his drink of choice: a whiskey sour.

Many who drive to New Jersey for liquor say what some Pennsylvanians have said for decades: The Garden State sells it cheaper, and has better selection and service.

The LCB in recent years has worked hard to improve service and selection. But Thursday's highly informal survey suggested there's still a difference in prices.

Booze can be cheaper in Jersey because Pennsylvania puts a 30 percent markup on liquor, and levies additional taxes. Bombay Sapphire Gin, for example, was selling for $22.09 at Canal's on Thursday; the same bottle went for $27.99 at a state-run store in Media, Delaware County.

Pennsylvania stores often run specials that close the gap. Jameson Irish Whiskey, selling for $23.09 at Canal's on Thursday, was on sale for $22.99 at the State Store in Media. The captain was a bargain, too - Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum was cheaper at the Pennsylvania store ($16.99) than at Canal's ($18.09).

Besides price, Pennsylvania people said they liked the fact that New Jersey lets stores sell beer and wine or hard liquor.

And some customers said they believe service and selection is still better in New Jersey, despite the LCB's efforts to dispel such notions.

At least four workers swarmed the floor Thursday at Total Wine & More in Cherry Hill to help shoppers choose from more than 8,000 wines. An employee helped a woman pick out a more "oaky" wine for a dinner party. Another shook his head when asked about a Malbec with a cute label, assuring the buyer that the better grape resided in a blander bottle.

"You can tell they're much more educated," said Donna Ghee, 59, a retired customer-service representative from Cheltenham. "They don't have that in Pennsylvania."

Many stores in Pennsylvania now boast a good selection and gracious staff. Trouble is, not all of them do.

The State Store on Baltimore Avenue in Media, for example, offers thousands of varieties of wine, including a stash of premium bottles in a temperature-controlled room. But other stores are more limited.

Eric Fredricks, 43, lives in Media but said he shops in New Jersey when he goes to the Shore.

"It's one-stop shopping," he said of the liquor stores in Jersey. Nodding toward the Media store, he said quizzically, "You can get some mixers here, but you can't get soda?"

But Media shopper Richard Lutz wondered how privatizing the stores might affect the lives of their employees, who number 3,000 statewide.

In lean times, said Lutz, 60, "anything that would put people out of a job is not a good idea."

Contact staff writer Joelle Farrell at 610-627-0352 or jfarrell@phillynews.com.