Senate group deals blow to call for beer distributors to sell wine, liquor |

Senate group deals blow to call for beer distributors to sell wine, liquor

Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media

A state Senate committee Wednesday gutted a proposal that would allow beer distributors to sell wine and spirits, but it could still become law this year, the bill’s sponsor said.

“It does appear to me that we will do a liquor bill,” said Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler. “As part of the budget, there will be some form of enhanced revenue through liquor sales.”

Ellis hopes to get his proposal added to a larger liquor bill when it moves through the General Assembly, possibly in the next couple of weeks.

In May, the state House narrowly passed a bill that would allow beer distributors to purchase a permit to sell unlimited quantities of wine and liquor.

Ellis proposed letting beer distributors buy enhanced permits for $5,000 each to sell wine and spirits. Renewal fees would have been equal to 2 percent of the amount of wine and spirits they bought from the Liquor Control Board.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee removed that language and replaced it with a provision removing a restriction on craft brewers operating out of hotels and restaurants.

The General Assembly passed a law last year that made significant changes to the state’s liquor industry and all stakeholders involved in the process have opposed making further changes until the new law takes full effect, said Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, who serves as minority chairman of the committee.

“I’ve heard this from every single organization that might be involved in liquor. Let’s let things settle down now,” he said. “We haven’t received any support for this bill from any stakeholder in the liquor process, including the beer distributors.”

The Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania, the main industry group for beer distributors, couldn’t be reached.

Ellis agreed the group opposed his bill, but he believes store owners support the idea of being allowed to become a one-stop shop for customers.

“I think anybody who’s a proponent of moving our system into the 21st century is in favor of it,” he said.

Adding up to 1,000 more retail outlets for spirits would encourage Pennsylvanians to buy more liquor and would encourage people living near the state’s borders to buy their liquor at Pennsylvania stores instead of shopping in other states, said David Wojnar, vice president for state government relations for the Distilled Spirits Council.

“We just think there’s a lot of untapped potential,” he said.

Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1218, [email protected] or via Twitter @TribBrian.

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