Just one week after making expanded wine permits available to PA grocery stores, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board issued 84 approvals to grocery stores in the Philadelphia region, allowing them to sell wine to-go once they pick up their stock from the PLCB.
Here's a map to get you started (only one Philly grocery store, the Port Richmond Thriftway at 2497 Aramingo Ave., will sell wine, as of right now):
Here are the 84 new places you'll soon be able to buy wine by the bottle in Pennsylvania → https://t.co/fwO7OiVl6Y pic.twitter.com/r8s1cmrrqZ— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) August 17, 2016
And while that's all well and good — a step forward, at least — it won't really change as much as we would've hoped here in Philly. Back in June, Billy Penn had wine-guy-about-town Jason Malumed of MFW Wine Co. write an entire piece explaining how the new, "historic" bill by Governor Tom Wolf won't do much for Philly's wine culture at large:
This law, as it currently stands, will not benefit anyone. Not wine distributors, who still won't be able to offer anything close to wholesale pricing like they do in most states. Not holders of restaurant wine-to-go licenses (it's important to note: not all grocery stores will get to sell wine, just the 300 or so that have those licenses, i.e. the ones that already sell beer), who will now be selling wine at super-high prices and will not be able to move any kind of real volume. Not consumers, who'll have to choose between cost and convenience. Not regular restaurant licensees, who have still not received the wholesale pricing reform they so desperately need. Not the PLCB, which will have funds used to cover their operating costs cut by a third.
Technically, wine will be more available, but that's about it. The bill doesn't address the glaring PA-specific wine issues, like price-gouging or dismal options for anybody interested in something other than, what Townsend sommelier Lauren Harris calls, "big-name houses." In fact, it'll be more expensive in grocery stores than in Wine & Spirits stores, and it'll be difficult to move product within those stores since price increases usually "dampen demand". And restaurants and bars doing their best to offer affordable wines in Philadelphia are still paying retail prices (not wholesale) for bottles they then have to re-sell to their guests at discomforting mark-ups.
His solution? Something called "semi-privatization":
Allow wine distributors to sell direct to licensees (including grocery stores that hold liquor-to-go licenses) without the LCB directly involved in the transaction. Distributors would then be able to offer real wholesale pricing, volume discounts and credit terms, and could deliver direct, without having to use LCB warehouses as a middleman drop-off point. Because the LCB is not physically handling the transaction, the 1 percent, 30 percent, and LTMF fees would not be added to the cost of the wine.
That way, "The state makes more money, distributors sell more quantity, restaurants are able to get (almost) real wholesale pricing, consumers are able to buy wine from restaurants at competitive prices and wine to-go outlets are able to offer more competitive prices."
But, hey, you can now go to Port Richmond and buy overpriced wine, and that's... something.