HARRISBURG - Just in time for the holiday rush on booze, the Liquor Control Board is temporarily closing its much-ballyhooed wine kiosks in grocery stores because of technical problems.
The wine-vending kiosks, in 30 supermarkets across the state, were taken off-line at 9 p.m. Tuesday. According to the LCB, some of the machines were having mechanical problems, including not dispensing wine.
"We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers and supermarket partners, but felt this temporary closure was critical to the future success of the program," LCB Chairman Patrick J. Stapleton said in a statement.
Simple Brands, the developer of the kiosks, will work on each machine to correct any problems, LCB officials said. Once all the kiosk machines have been fixed and tested, the board will reopen them, but that is not expected to happen until early 2011.
The agency will soon be defending itself from what is expected to be an aggressive push by Gov.-elect Tom Corbett to privatize the sale of wine and spirits.
And the LCB, which controls the purchase, distribution, and sale of wine and spirits, has launched an aggressive campaign over last few years to run its stores more like a business, shed its image as a lumbering bureaucracy, and make wine more easily accessible.
One of its signature initiatives was the wine kiosk - essentially elaborate vending machines, equipped with breath-test devices, that dispense wine by the bottle.
The LCB unveiled its first kiosks in Harrisburg-area supermarkets this summer, and its first Philadelphia-area ones in the fall at the Fresh Grocer store in Drexel Hill and the Wegmans in Downingtown. The plan is to open about 100 kiosks across the state.
For those customers looking to do last-minute shopping for wine and liquor, never fear. The state wine and spirit stores are still operating. And they will be open until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve and 8 p.m. New Year's Eve.