Pennsylvania residents will soon have the chance to do something not legal in the Keystone State since before Prohibiton: Buy a bottle of wine at the grocery store. Better yet for the state's many serious wine lovers, they'll be able to have wine delivered directly to their homes from wineries across the United States.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 1690 into law on Wednesday. The far-reaching bill legalizes the sale of wine in grocery stores, permits hotels and restaurants to sell wine for off-premise consumption, permits casinos to serve alcohol 24 hours a day, expands hours for the state-run Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) stores on Sundays and holidays, and allows consumers to have up to 36 cases of wine per year, per winery delivered to their homes from out-of-state wineries. The legislation goes into effect Aug. 8.
For more than 80 years, Pennsylvania wine and spirits sales have been controlled by the PLCB, with consumer choice limited to the brands carried by the state. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania is the 12th largest wine market in the U.S., with the state reporting more than $885 million in wine sales for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Pennsylvania was far and away the largest wine-consuming state that had not yet created a law permitting out-of-state direct-to-consumer winery shipping. Now it becomes the 43rd to do so.
"The House concurred with the Senate on historic liquor modernization legislation that provides greater customer convenience to the people of Pennsylvania," Gov. Wolf said in statement before signing the bill. "As I have always said, my goal is to modernize the sale of liquor and beer in Pennsylvania to ensure convenience and satisfaction for customers."
"Pennsylvania has been on our radar since before the Granholm decision [in 2005]," Wine Institute vice president of state relations Steve Gross told Wine Spectator, referring to the California winery advocacy group's efforts to bring direct shipping to the state. "We have long wanted to see a [direct-shipping] bill passed, and it's been caught up in larger discussions of modernization and privatization in Pennsylvania."
The bill received broad bipartisan support, passing 157-31 in the House this week. It did not please everyone, however. "This privatization proposal will begin draining dollars from the state immediately," read a statement from Wendell Young IV, president of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents about 3,500 of the state's 5,000 PLCB employees. "Instead of destroying this revenue-generating agency [by permitting grocery store wine sales], let's open more [PLCB] stores inside of or adjacent to grocery stores or beer distributors to improve convenience."
Spirits producers are also unhappy. Spirits sales, which generated $1.22 billion in sales in Pennsylvania last year, will remain the sole purview of PLCB stores.
"Pennsylvanian consumers want a good selection of products at competitive prices, not segregated spirits that force them to make multiple shopping stops," said Distilled Spirits Council vice president David Wojnar in a statement. "Devaluing the state’s alcohol system through this completely ill-conceived plan makes the 76ers’ tanking look like a stroke of genius."