by Tony Romeo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Despite the continuing desire by some legislative leaders for privatization of alcohol sales, Liquor Control Board officials told lawmakers this past week that they are planning to increase the number of state stores in Pennsylvania.

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Selling off state stores has long been seen by advocates of privatization as their Holy Grail.

But when asked last week about possible efforts to privatize retail sales, the legislature’s chief backer of privatization, House Speaker Mike Turzai, indicated leasing of wholesale operations was a higher priority.

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Liquor Control Board Chairman Tim Holden says even with a new law increasing the locations where wine can be sold, there are no plans to reduce the number of state stores.

“Absolutely not. Not at this time. No data reflects the need to do that. This also gives us opportunities. More opportunities in spirits, more opportunities in high value wine,” said Holden.

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In fact, LCB officials told a House committee that they have added nine state stores over the latter part of this year, for a total of 609 by year’s end, and that they aim for a total of 620 by the end of next year.