Reader Poll: Do You Support Liquor Privatization?

liquorWith the 2015 elections in the rear-view mirror, we can turn back to the budget standoff.

There are many reasons for the stalemate, not least among them arguments over taxes and the state’s pension system.

While those are fairly common issues throughout the nation’s fifty states, one of the more contentious conflicts is not. For some time now, the possibility of liquor privatization has been at the heart of Pennsylvania’s budget disputes.

To put it simply, PA’s alcohol industry is controlled by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board but many opponents support removing the state’s oversight on the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Given the impact this debate is having on our budgetary situation, we want to know how our readers feel.

Do You Support Liquor Privatization in Pennsylvania?


  • Yes (50%)
  • No (50%)

Total Voters: 3,848

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39 Responses

  1. Yesterday I rang over $13,000.00 at my PLCB register. Almost as much as I made as a part timer last year. I make $12.00 per hour. Who is doing who a disservice?

  2. You would think those using nefarious means to distort this poll would have noticed, realized, SOMETHING! Click away till you figure it out for yourself.

  3. @FFej

    So we need state stores to protect us poor consumers from greedy owners who will put profit first and jack up the prices? The ultimate defense against that is a FREE MARKET. If store A is charging too much, store B will undercut him and take his customers. And if they’re both priced too high, I can open store C and offer something better to outdo them both.

    If you can find me even one example of an industry where the consumer gets a better deal from a monopoly than he does from free market competition, I’m all ears.

  4. Store size, store location and store hours (except for Sunday) have been under the control of the PLCB since 1951. If they wanted bigger stores then sometime in the past 64 years they could have leased them. If they wanted longer hours then they could pick anything between 7AM to 2 AM same as a bar and if they wanted stores more convenient they could have done that since 1934 when the PLCB stated “Beginning January 2, 1934 and continuing as rapidly as alterations can be completed, 240 liquor stores will be open in Pennsylvania at convenient places to serve the public.”

    After 82 years why should we believe them now?

  5. Hey Tom-You say the State stores are turning a half billion dollars in profit a year? Give me a break! That money is plowed right back in to all those government workers addicted to those government paychecks! Where else are they going to make that kind of money? Not in private industry because no one would hire their duffs and pay them the kind of money the state does. Add in the lucrative pension and fringe benefit like health care and disability and life insurance – these government workers are living like royalty. That so called “profit” you claim is an illusion. That is just the hocus pocus they wave in front of your face to justify their existence. Let the prehistoric animal become extinct – a relic of the past. Sure, no one likes change but people adapt. Profit my eye!

  6. Privatize No! Change the law? Yes! We have some of the best selection for wines and spirits anywhere. Most beer distributors also carry a wide variety of beers. I travel and I see the selection at the big box stores. It sucks! Other states still maintain control over spirits. So why do you need to sell off what we have. Expand stores expand hours. Move stores to be nearer to shopping centers. And let’s face it I don’t mind stopping at two places to get dinner and a wine. Quit being lazy. Plan your shopping trip before you leave. And finally if you think prices will fall due to all this competition. You are sadly mistaken. A good owner will price his wares first to cover operating costs and second to make a modest profit. A greedy owner will put profit first. So the mark up on the booze will be whatever is needed to make the business work. I can purchase Jagrmeister anywhere in the state system for $20.00 for a fifth. My recent trip to South Carolina where all stores close at 7PM and all day Sunday. That same bottle of Jagrmeister was 6 different prices at 6 different stores. Ranging from $20.00 to $35.00 per fifth. Let’s look at how we can modernize our system before trying to throw the baby out with the bath water.

  7. You forgot to say that every bill has been different and you also forgot a few zeros in your statement. The bill that Wolf vetoed was $200 million but the tax structure was different from the bill before that and the one before that one….well you get the idea.

    Hate to burst your bubble but I’m closer to retirement then the rest of my life and my business allows me to do what I want a fair amount of the time so I’m sorry to say that nobody is paying me.

    I thought that lipstick on a pig is a pretty good analogy to modernization. It doesn’t change the pig underneath, just makes it look better.

  8. its amazing that our elected officials have nothing better to discuss other then how a few of them are going to make the profits that the state is now collecting,,if this was such a wise venture then why hasn’t it been already taken care of,,,and I ponder who is supporting mr brooks because he seems to have nothing better to do then banter back and forth on all the logs about privatization,,a lobbyist maybe,,,hmmm,,,bottom line is it will cost the state more to get rid of what mr brooks so eloquently calls a pig,,a few short years ago they talked about making 2 BILLION big ones by getting rid of the Fine Wine and Good Spirit Stores to now what just over 2 million,,,wow,,,a huge drop
    mr brooks there was once a fine football coach who use the line,,,,its time to get on with your life’s work,,,

  9. Brian, do you know how to read the financial statements the PLCB released? You’ll see why things are headed for the toilet and it isn’t because of store improvements. In fact Leasehold improvements went down this year compared to last.

  10. Its a 100 year old law that treats its citizens like heathens. Get with the times. PA is such a cool state and this is such an unnecessary piece of legislation. Get with the times….and this is coming from a liberal at that.

  11. Hey Al brooks why are they in the hole for this year. Oh yeah besisdes pention obligations they spent a ton on building and upgrading stores, companies do that for near term loss so it provides long term gain. But don’t bother to explain that, just to justify your talking point

  12. Hey Al brooks why are they in the home for this year. Oh yeah besisdes pention obligations they spent a ton on building and upgrading stores, companies do that for near term loss so it provides long term gain. But don’t bother to explain that, just to justify your talking point

  13. Gotta love how the people who worship the state stores accuse those who favor privatization of being brainwashed. Apparently they can’t do arithmetic and they don’t get out much to see how most other states don’t have this ridiculous system.

  14. Tom, you might be right if it were true. Most of the money is taxes (80% and taxes are paid by thousands of businesses without government workers manning the till. With the PLCB being a quarter billion in the hole it isn’t like they benefit the citizens.

  15. Giving away a half billion in annual income to the state budget is the dumbest thing I ever heard of. Of course the private corporations who want this money are relentless in trying to brainwash the gullible. I have to believe PA citizens are smart enough not to let it happen.

  16. (1)–The laws can be adjusted to remove most “place” restrictions on beer and wine sales.
    (2)–The state stores can remain, and can continue to have an exclusive on drinks stronger than wine.
    (3)–There is no TRUE “privatization” plan: just a plan to sell liquor licenses to somebody’s favorite HUGE companies.

  17. We need liquor stores on every corner in every ghetto across the state. Look at Detroit, prime example – no grocery stores but liquor stores everywhere. Sure, let them sell rotgut whiskey, Colt 45, Thunderbird and blunts – all the ghetto dwellers will be real happy!

  18. Chuck, Let’s see. The PLCB is in the hole $240 million and last year they only made 111,520,313 in operating income. Kinda hard to erase a $240 million dollar debt in a few months when you don’t make $240 in an entire year don’t cha think?

    The PLCB is not only NOT the largest purchaser in the world it isn’t even the largest in the US, Costco is and Total wine will pass the PLCB in the next few years on retail. In wholesale the PLCB is about 8th.

    Last year the PLCB worked on a 45.38% gross markup and there are plenty of businesses that work on less. The whole idea about privatization is to get the state out of the liquor business. To get unqualifed people from making decisions what legal product the public is allowed to buy. To make purchasing more convenient and to oncrease selection and service beyond what a government monopoly can provide. Nothing is stopping workers from organizing in the new stores except that most workers don’t want too.

  19. The amazing thing is that the republicans are tying the budget to privatization. For four years they had governor and majorities in the house and senate and cannot get it done. Now a democratic governor gets elected and his campaign made it known that he was against privatization and the republicans decide that they can put together a package that includes privatization NOW. Do you think that maybe the republican legislation figured it out to pick this fight now- naw their not that smart.

  20. The PLCB is only in debt for the next 15-20 days. As soon as Christmas sales begin, they will be posting record profits. This is standard with many businesses, you need to add inventory ahead of peak sales season. Warrior and Albert Brooks, you should know better. The whole point behind privatization is to replace well paid workers who have benefits with low wage clerks. This is the only way privatization can deliver the profits to its supporters while keeping prices anywhere close to their current level. The PLCB is the largest purchaser of liquor in the world. This gives them great buying power and controls costs. Even if the do replace well paid workers with low wage ones, their price will still go up. There wholesale cost will likely be 10-25% more than the current system, plus will have to pay license fees. Where does the profit in the private system come from? The pockets of the employees and the consumer. Don’t be foolish and throw away a good thing.

  21. It has come to our attention this poll has been tampered with by those favoring privatization and is void. Really, who would be that desperate?

  22. Not sure what the value of my hose has to do with this but given the choice the citizens have always picked privatization. 40 years and there has never been a poll in favor of the PLCB.. Maybe the legislature is actually doing what the people want this time. Putting lipstick on the PLCB pig is something the PLCB has been saying since 1934. They had lines about increasing customer convenience even back then and here we are 80 years later and they still are saying the same tired lines.

  23. seems to be many many disillusioned people reading what some in the house is passing off as a sure fire budget fix all,,,when once again its all about corporate greed,,one has to wonder just how far the kock bros are in mr turdzai’s pocket for him to keep pushing something they couldn’t get through when they had total control of not only house and senate but also had the worst governor in the history of PA sitting in the high seat,,so if by some chance turdzai is able to pull off one of the worst possible scams off,,,what is he going to sell of off next,,,
    mr brooks,,what can he get for your house,,

  24. anyone going to bother to mention that the sale of the PLCB is just a case of political blackmail by Mike Turzai and will have absolutely NO effect on this years budget?

  25. Albert Brooks Is correct in pointing out that once the PLCB adopted standard accounting practices and NOT their fake Enron style hocus-pocus type accounting, they are in the hole a quarter billion dollars!

    So what do you suppose these government parasite will propose? You guessed it! They will ask the taxpayers in the Commonwealth to go to the well again and bail them out! Ridiculous! No private enterprise would ever survive such malfeasance.

    We need to liquidate this government entity and in doing so, unburden the taxpayers from further liability pension and otherwise from these government parasites who bleed us dry. There is no competition. They set the prices and it is THEIR price you MUST pay! How fair is THAT?

    It’s time to dissolve this entity and turn it over to private business who can run it more efficiently and bring competition into the marketplace. It’s too bad if union jobs are lost. It’s too bad if government employees are put on the streets. No one ever guaranteed anyone lifetime employment with a union contract where it is next to impossible to be fired. You show up and you get paid-how sweet of a deal is that? Even if you are a lardbutt do nothing they can’t get rid of you, but a privately owned business can. They won’t tolerate such employees.

    Put the whole system up for bid. Partition the state into say 25 sections and bid each section off to the highest bidder, let the free marketeers decide and then hands off except for the revenue agents and enforcement agents to ensure compliance with the laws of the state. Other than that, The State of Pennsylvania has no business being in the liquor business especially since they are not very good at it and they continue to lose massive amounts of money as evidenced by their latest annual report.

    Thank you Mr. Brooks for pointing out that they continue to hemorrhage huge amounts of cash and are not accountable to anyone mainly the taxpayers who will ultimately be called upon to bail this sorry agency out.

    Very disturbing.

  26. Jon Geeting says that liquor sales cross-subsidize food sales at restaurants thus limiting the number of our restaurants. Other people argue that the result is higher food prices.

    I don’t find either argument plausible. Cross-subsidization sometimes happens in business but only under very limited circumstances where there is a substantial differential in the price elasticity for different goods or classes of goods. I don’t see why in general restaurants would do this on a regular basis Indeed, if we did not limit bar licenses it would be more difficult to cross-subsidize because the competitive pressures on restaurants with bars would be greater.

    The proliferation of BYOBs in Philadelphia has actually been a great boon to those of us who like to have wine with dinner and can save a huge amount because we avoid restaurant mark-ups for wine.

    And that’s what one would conclude you look at Center City Philadelphia where we have small, excellent restaurants popping up all over the place.

    The moral is that experience trumps theory, and especially bad theory.

  27. Keep the wine and spirits open…there is one about every three miles and the selection is way more then if you try to sell. If it aint broke dont fix it…

  28. The liquor stores bring in more money then what you think. They also pay for state police and all. And also supports UPS and USPS. With all the stuff the office mails out to the stores. And they are not in a hole live that person said

  29. It looks like Greg is confused too. The state stores do not bring in $500 million in profit. Just look at the financial papers released last week. They were $240 million in the hole. Mr.Bible thinks that collecting taxes is profit which it is not nor has it ever been. The total non-tax revenue of the PLCB is 3/10ths of 1 per cent of the budget. More of a rounding error than anything else.

  30. Every taxpayer in Pennsylvania should be against selling off the Golden Goose as our State Store System brings in over $500 million in profits a year that WE the tax payers do NOT have to pay in taxes. This money goes right into the state budget. Once they sell our State Stores and use up the huge influx of monies that some think will last for 3 to 10 years before they blow it all, they will then have no choice but to tax US to regain the revenues they lost by selling the golden goose. Remember, this is the same legislature that CANNOT tell us where the billions we have paid over the past 17 years in taxes on a gallon of gas and license and registration fee increases to get our roads and bridges fixed has gone because it certainly did NOT go into the roads and bridges. Do you really trust THIS Legislature to do the right thing with the monies they will take in by selling off our state store system? I know I don’t as they cannot be trusted until they can tell us where the billions we have already paid to fix our roads and bridges have gone!

  31. Ms. Sullivan seems to be confused. The PLCB is well over $200 million in debt as of the financials they released last week. Guess who is responsible to cover that? The taxpayers. She also mis-states that the State stores pay for the state police and liquor enforcement. The PLCB doesn’t give money to any municipality, that is money they would collect when they wanted to if the PLCB wasn’t in the middle. It isn’t earned by the PLCB at all.

    She is also wrong about how often private business pays taxes, so apparently she doesn’t own a business and know little if anything about how they are run.

    Since only one state has privatized in the last 10 years, or 20 years for that matter, it is hard for half of them to complain about anything. If she is talking about Washington, then they not only have collected more revenue then when they had state stores, employment has also tripled in the industry, selection has vastly increased and convenience has gone from 329 stores to over 1400. Sounds like they are doing fine.

    Now Iowa admits that they only made $125 million more then they would have if they had kept their state stores so do follow Ms. Sullivan’s advice and ask them how privatization went. Or you can look at the PFM report that stated “A review of Iowa’s experience, conducted by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division 10 years
    after privatization, reached the following conclusions:
    “Profits increased by $125 million over the first 11 years of privatization compared to estimates with State control of the stores. According to the review, this was largely due to the increase in amount of stores and reduced overhead associated with the state operations.”

    So if increased employment, increased selection, increased convenience and less border belld are things you don’t want then by all means keep the state stores. Otherwise – PRIVATIZE.

  32. One intersting fact is that Pennsylvania has 628 municipalities that are dry, 26% of the total. Maybe that has something to do with the liquor laws and State Stores in PA. I would be for privatization, IF, our illustrious elected officials would allow the employees FIRST CHANCE at the licenses.

  33. Rather than make liquor licences unlimited, do a gradual ramp up of 10% annually for a few years with PA govt selling these new liquor licenses and adding the revenue to the general revenue to make up the deficit.

  34. The only real money maker in Pennsylvania that helps ALL PENNSYLVANIAN’S even those who DON’T DRINK is the PLCB. ALL money they make after paying their operating costs is PROFIT which is put in the general fund to HELP ALL the people in Pennsylvania. The PLCB is totally self sufficient after paying their running costs you the taxpayer tap the rest of their earned money. They pay for liquor enforcement, state police, and give money to REACH municipality. Money is sepsis EACH DAY into the general fund of Pennsylvania that benefits every Pennsylvania citizen. Taxes on PRIVATE business is only paid once a year and half of the state’s that went private in the last 10 years complained that MOST of the private liquor sellers did NOT PAY their taxes and filed bankruptcy so as NOT to have to pay. Look into Iowa and Washington state. Also the private companies do NOT help each citizen but the owners abs stock hosts in the companies only. Do not let the politicians bullshit you with this private enterprise crap….private means money in the FEWS pockets NOT All citizens.

  35. PA has the most ridiculous beer and liquor laws in the country. When you tell someone who has never lived here about it, first they don’t believe you and then they laugh.

  36. An even more important issue that’s not really on the radar in Harrisburg is the crazy cost of retail liquor licenses. The way the restaurant business works in all other places is that the booze cross-subsidizes the food. In PA, we stupidly ration this good business model to rich restauranteurs who can afford to pay $50-100,000 for a license just to start a new bar or restaurant. If we uncapped liquor licenses, we’d get more hole in the wall bars and restaurants going in the empty buildings on our struggling Main Street strips and downtown areas. Melbourne, Australia uncapped liquor licenses as a strategy to fill their nice alleyways with small bars and restaurants and it worked. Why is this not something representatives from urban areas and older downtowns are pushing?

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