All 20-plus employees of the Liquor Control Board's warehouse store in South Philadelphia - the state's largest - were dismissed Friday over what the LCB's chief executive called "widespread financial irregularities."
Joe Conti declined Monday to specify the nature of the allegations that followed an internal audit several months ago, pending further investigation.
Sources said workers at the low-slung warehouse at 23d Street and Washington Avenue in Point Breeze - at which many of the region's bars and restaurants buy wine and spirits - were suspected of selling products to some regular customers in a fashion that was off the books.
All the workers at what is known as Store 5103 were suspended with intent to dismiss, the LCB said. It was not known whether restaurant or bar workers would be implicated.
The amount in question on the audit was about $25,000, according to LCB sources. The time the audit covered was not known.
The head of the union representing the warehouse clerks said it would file grievances to get the clerks reinstated.
"Our members should not be fired," said Wendell W. Young IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776.
"I'm not going to discuss the details, because this is our members' livelihoods," Young said, calling the situation "not a clear-cut case."
Ed Cloonan, president of the Independent State Store Union, which represents the stores' managers, declined to comment except to say that the case "will play through the investigative and administrative process."
Conti said the LCB had consulted with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and had delivered preliminary findings to the Pennsylvania State Police.
All clerks and managers at the warehouse have been replaced, Conti said. The store is not open to the public. It reported $23 million in sales in 2009-10, according to the LCB.
Conti said that in a system with nearly 4,500 employees, the LCB sees an "incident or two" a year of financial irregularities, but they usually involve one or two people. "We have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of thing," he said.
The LCB operates warehouse stores to serve licensees including bars, clubs, and restaurants. Most Center City and South Philadelphia bars and restaurants use the Point Breeze store. The retail store at Franklin Mills Mall serves some licensees in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County.