- The options in Pennsylvania for people to buy wine and beer from private retailers would expand and the state-controlled liquor stores would remain open under a bill approved yesterday by a state House panel.
But the bill represents a radical departure from the objectives of the House Republican floor leader and of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to close the state stores and auction wine- and liquor-sales licenses to private operators.
Prospects for the bill are not clear in the full House, and a raft of proposed amendments was expected to emerge on a topic that has proven to be complicated for the Legislature.
Liquor Control Committee Chairman John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, defended the bill as a better transition to a private market than Corbett's idea, because it would allow good stores to thrive without costing the jobs of state-store employees.
"On paper, this looks to be 'privatization-lite,' " Taylor said. "If you play it out, it's much more significant in terms of what will happen after this is passed. . . . I think you'll have a hybrid approach in terms of the retail market, as well.
"You'll have a Total Wine [store] in Pennsylvania; you'll have mom-and-pop operations; you'll have supermarkets with this ability to do it, and I think that's significant enough without doing damage," he said.
Total Wine is a huge discount hard liquor, wine and beer establishment in Claymont, Del., and in Cherry Hill.
Under the bill, restaurants, bars and beer distributors could sell beer in a wider variety of quantities. The state's approximately 1,200 beer distributors could get licenses to sell wine, and wine wholesalers could compete with the state Liquor Control Board. The state stores would remain the only licensees that could sell hard liquor.