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Pa. Senate, House pass bill extending Sunday beer sales

Part of a push to relax state liquor laws, it would make brews available between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

HARRISBURG - Score one for beer lovers.

The Pennsylvania legislature on Wednesday voted to extend the hours beer distributors can stay open on Sundays.

Until now, consumers have had to make Sunday beer runs between noon and 5 p.m. The measure passed by both the House and Senate - with little debate - would extend the hours on both ends, allowing distributors to stay open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The bill now goes to Gov. Corbett, and a spokesman said last night the governor was expected to sign it.

This loosening of Pennsylvania's stringent liquor laws comes as some top Republicans are pushing to privatize almost all of the state Liquor Control Board's operations.

The move to auction off the agency's wine and liquor stores, championed by Corbett and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), has helped push the door open to modernizing laws that hark back to the end of Prohibition.

Just recently, the LCB quietly rolled out a pilot program allowing customers to select from a limited list of products and, for a fee, have them shipped directly to their homes. Before, customers could order only from the LCB's online catalog and have the liquor shipped to the nearest state liquor store for pickup.

Over the last few years, the agency has also made a concerted effort to spiff up stores, increase selection, and open higher-end retail locations.

Although the LCB does not sell beer, it does license distributors of suds. And in Pennsylvania, beer laws almost inevitably find their way into the privatization debate.

In the bill legislators approved Wednesday, there are other provisions that would relax some liquor laws, including one that would allow restaurants that serve brunch or breakfast before 11 a.m. on Sundays to begin serving alcoholic beverages as early as 9 a.m.