Heyl: Comprehending Pa.’s liquor reform oddities may drive you to drink |

Heyl: Comprehending Pa.’s liquor reform oddities may drive you to drink

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PUNXSUTAWNEY, PA - Groundhog handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil after he saw his shadow predicting six more weeks of winter during 128th annual Groundhog Day festivities on February 2, 2014.

Don’t drink and legislate.

That’s apparently the lesson to be learned from the state’s new liquor reform law that recently went into effect. It’s sufficiently quirk-riddled to raise the question of whether its authors crafted it while downing a few craft beers at a Harrisburg bistro.

The new law has been hailed for finally bringing Pennsylvania’s convoluted and antiquated alcohol regulations at least into the early part of the 20th Century. (The law retained a “temporary” 10 percent levy on wine and liquor designed to aid victims of the 1936 Johnstown flood. Many of them still aren’t back on their feet, mostly because they long ago died of old age.)

Among the changes: Wine and Spirits stores can have longer operating hours; wine can be sold in grocery stores; and hotels and restaurants can sell takeout bottles of wine.

But nestled in the 163-page law are elements that charitably can be labeled oddities. They impact the following:

Bed and breakfasts

B&B owners are permitted to give a bottle of wine to guests at check-in, but there’s a catch. The wine can only be provided if the guests are staying overnight.

Who thought that provision was necessary?

Does anyone check into a bed and breakfast with the intent of sleeping elsewhere? If you’re showing up at a place just for breakfast, it would be a lot less expensive just to go to Eat’n Park.

Rodents that hibernate (Not a reference to lawmakers taking their customary extended winter break in December and January.)

The law allows bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to sell alcohol when Groundhog Day falls on a Sunday, regardless of whether the establishment’s license permits Sunday sales.

Why Groundhog Day sales were modestly expanded is unclear. Perhaps law enforcement officials should examine whether legislative leaders suddenly received a suspicious influx of campaign contributions from the nation’s numerous groundhog advocacy groups.


Casinos can obtain permits to sell alcohol around-the-clock, 365 days a year. If any do, the change is expected to spark a dramatic surge in shot sales at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning by blackjack players celebrating two distinctly different miracles: the birth of the Baby Jesus and the player just having beaten the dealer’s “20.”

The powdered alcohol industry

The law outlaws the use and sale of powdered alcohol, which sort of is like Kool-Aid with a kick. Commercially known as Palcohol, the product isn’t available in the United States, and its manufacturer states on the Palcohol website that it isn’t looking for distributors in America.

If only lawmakers were that proactive in eliminating the 1936 Johnstown flood tax.

Eric Heyl is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857 or [email protected].

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