KYW Regional Affairs Council

“State Store Standoff”


By John McDevitt

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — Lawmakers in Harrisburg continue to work on a plan to loosen the complete control of Pennsylvania’s wholesale and retail operations.

But opponents think the proposal to sell wine in the private sector will be costly — in more ways than one.

If the proposed measure becomes law, you will be able to go to private beer distributors in the Commonwealth and pick up wine there, too.

But many of the owners of these small, family-owned businesses don’t like it.  Among them is Mike Nicoletti of Nicoletti Beverage Center, in the Tacony section of Philadelphia.

“For us it’s kind of hard, because the monetary value involved,” he tells KYW Newsradio.  “It’s going to cost us, as a startup operation, $50,000 I believe, and a renewal every year of up to $15,000.  We are a small operation!  To be able to pull fifty thousand dollars out of a hat, you know…   And then, if you don’t do the volume that you are supposed to, you can end up jeopardizing your business and everything you have.”

Supporters say it would allow for competitive pricing and strengthen the profitability of the state stores while providing more options for consumers.  Wine wholesalers could compete with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to sell wine to restaurants, bars, hotels, and retail wine and beer distributers, including so-called “big box” stores.

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But the union representing thousands of state store employees says there is a lot to lose.

(UFCW Local 1776 president Wendell Young. Credit: John McDevitt)

“As beer distributers acquire licenses and sell more and more wine through their outlets, it will cost revenue to the state and it will cost jobs,” says Wendell Young (right), president of United Food and Commercial Workers local 1776.

“You don’t lift our economy by putting 5,000 people out of work and replacing them with part-time, big-box and retail and convenience store employees,” Young says.  “And you don’t lift ourselves out of this economy by eliminating a profit-making venture for the state and replacing it with the private sector who will suck that profit out and leave us with less revenue to solve other very difficult budget issues.”

Young says allowing wine to be sold by private sector would take away business from state stores and be the “death by a thousand cuts” to the state store system.

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