Want a six-pack delivered? PLCB just made beer buying easier
Under intense public and legislative pressure to modernize by making alcohol sales in Pennsylvania more convenient, the PLCB is taking some here-to-fore unheard-of steps regarding beer sales.
Even more interestingly, these momentous changes by the PLCB are happening in the absence of any legislative changes to Pennsylvania's liquor statutes. Among the changes are allowing beer to be home-delivered by restaurants and bars and letting distributors sell 12-packs.
Do you want that six-pack delivered?
Perhaps knowing that retail licensees, such as bars and restaurants, might not take kindly to beer distributors being permitted to sell 12-packs, the PLCB is now permitting up to two six-packs of beer to be home-delivered to customers, right along with their orders for wings, pizza and subs.
In this case, the PLCB issued an advisory notice regarding existing Pennsylvania law governing the transportation of alcohol, specifically malt beverages. There are three classes of state licenses to transport alcohol: one to handle beer and malt beverages; one to handle all alcohol; and one to cross state lines.
In clearing the way for home-delivered beer, the PLCB simply clarified that existing alcohol transportation licenses for malt beverages could be used for such a purpose.
Bars, restaurants and pizza and sub shops with retail licenses can now have a new delivery sideline, should they choose to get a transport license - namely, home delivering six-packs of beer.
12-packs now sold at beer distributors
It has long perplexed Pennsylvanians and guests from other states that beer buyers were forced to purchase an entire case when doing business at Pennsylvania beer distributors. This seemed a liquor control perversity: Why would state law force beer buyers to purchase more alcohol when they wanted less?
Still, many PLCB observers believed that this beer-by-the-case rule for distributors was embedded in Section 431 of the Liquor Code and that any change would have to come in the form of a new law.
Not so, according to a recent PLCB opinion from the agency's Office of Chief Counsel.
As a former attorney with the PLCB and from my experience at Scaringi & Scaringi P.C. handling liquor license cases for bars, clubs and restaurants, I was surprised that the agency made this change without any action by the Legislature. Instead, the Office of Chief Counsel announced that it was now interpreting a sentence in Section 431 that allows distributors to sell 192 ounces or more of beer as originally packaged by manufacturers.
For decades, this part of the code was interpreted as allowing beer distributors to sell kegs. But now, with the mere stroke of an agency lawyer's pen, the PLCB was citing the clause as clearing the way for 12-pack sales, a change long sought by distributors.
That 192 ounces is also the amount contained in a 12-pack, which now can legally be sold by beer distributors under the Office of Chief Counsel pronouncement.
Of course, every change by the PLCB has winners and losers. In the case of selling two six-packs for off-premises consumption, this had long been the exclusive purview of retail licensees, such as bars and restaurants.
But when the PLCB opened the door for major grocery store chains, such as Wegmans, Giant and Weis, to begin selling six-packs by obtaining malt beverage licenses, it was the beer distributors who cried foul the loudest.
Now, the PLCB seems to be placating this group with yet another change - the new 12-pack sales permission - under the guise of PLCB modernization.
Suffice it to say that the pace of PLCB changes is quickly reaching unprecedented levels. Now is not the time to lose this sharp focus on Pennsylvania liquor law and its application by the PLCB.