By Scott Pruden
With summer ending, many Pennsylvanians are settling back into the routines of home after spending weeks in exotic lands.
"Exotic?" they might sniff. "I just spent a week at a third-row rental in Dewey Beach, Del. There's nothing exotic about that." Others might cast their minds back to their trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina or to Hilton Head in South Carolina. Sure, the house there was posh and the surroundings were tropical, but the place wasn't really, well, exotic.
Indeed, the traditions at these vacation destinations and the language spoken there might seem familiar, but in one respect these destinations are exotic to visiting Pennsylvanians: In Delaware, North Carolina and South Carolina, it is easy to buy a six-pack of beer.
Here at home, if you don't know the neighborhood, acquiring a six-pack can be an exercise in frustration and advanced detective work as you search for a pizza joint or deli licensed to sell beer. Buying from a tavern is an option, but for some, requesting a six-pack from an unfamiliar bartender is a bit like walking up to a stranger and asking to kiss his wife.
Even on one's own turf, finding a six-pack vendor often results only from extensive research and networking combined with blind luck.
But this is the way it has always been done - words that in Pennsylvania justify all state laws that are inefficient or silly.
These words helped perpetuate blue laws until just a few years ago, and they still force Pennsylvania oenophiles into an unholy union with the state's borderline-Marxist wine-buying system.
Now the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Sheetz convenience stores, whose corporate parents want a ruling on Pennsylvania liquor laws in the hope that a quick-mart will be allowed to sell take-out six-packs.
This is an excellent opportunity for Pennsylvania to cast aside "the way it has always been done" in favor of a commonsense and convenient approach to beer sales.
The natural fear among tavern owners and beer distributors who count on the archaic liquor laws for their living is that convenient access to six-packs will spell their doom. Customers, they fear, will flock to Wawa instead of pizza shops. Rather than having to buy a case at a distributor, someone on his way to a barbecue or day of fishing will instead stop at Pathmark for a smaller, more manageable quantity.
But fret not, beer purveyors of Pennsylvania. You will survive.
First, almost anyone would prefer surveying a brightly lit cooler of discount beers at a supermarket or mini-mart to asking someone to grab an overpriced order from under the bar. Rather than fearing where their six-pack profits will come from, tavern owners should focus on what they're supposed to do - serve drinks and food to customers on the premises.
A change in the law might actually help pizza shop and deli owners. It would cut into profits at first, but then lighten the financial burden of maintaining a liquor license.
For distributors, I imagine, the hit will be even less significant. Customers who want to buy in bulk - whether to stock up at home or for a party - will still patronize their warehouses for their wide selections and low prices.
All the merchants who would be affected by a change should take heart that supermarket and convenience store sales of beer haven't resulted in widespread economic collapse anywhere else.
Want proof? Just cast your eyes to those exotic, faraway vacation destinations and you'll quickly realize that no one ever went broke satisfying mankind's thirst for a cold six-pack.