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Wine, Beer Could Be Sold In Many Venues If Pa. Privatizes State Stores

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- For decades, Pennsylvanians have bought bottles of wine and liquor from one of the state's 600 wine and spirits stores and cases of beer from their local distributor, but all that could change.

"The state should not be in the business of selling wine and spirits," said Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley Wednesday morning in Johnstown.

Cawley was touring a Sheetz there to push Gov. Tom Corbett's plan, that he said, " will revolutionize the way in which Pennsylvanians have access to wine and spirits and beer and provide for that selection and convenience and competitive pricing."

While hard liquor and wine would be sold in 1,200 privately owned liquor stores, a memo sent to legislators from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai outlines what Pennsylvanians could also expect:

  • Grocery stores and pharmacies could sell two six-packs of beer and six bottles of wine to a customer.
  • Convenience stores could sell one six-pack of beer.
  • Big box retail stores could sell beer by the case and six bottles of wine.
  • Beer distributers could break up the case and sell beer down to 42-ounce quantities and sell unlimited wine.

Of course, there are big fees, up front and annually, that grocery stores like Giant Eagle, Shop 'n Save, and Kuhn's would have to pay, along with big box retail stores like Walmart and Target.

But others want in on the action -- like family-owned Pennsylvania Macaroni in the Strip.

"There's nothing better than cheese and wine," co-owners David Sunseri told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

And Sunseri is worried that high fees and politics might keep small businesses out of the market.

"You know a lot of these big box stores, large grocery chains, and pharmacies and stuff -- they're going to be first in line to get these licenses," he noted.

It's a concern to state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale who says -- if there is privatization -- he will monitor the license sales closely.

"I do believe that it's critical that if you going to go to a private market and have credibility as to who is getting the licenses you need to make sure they are not getting it based on political contributions," said DePasquale.

Iraqi War veteran Regina Koetters -- who recently opened up Marty's Market, an organic and all natural market -- hopes she can get a license, too.

"I think it would be a game changer for our business but also for our entire neighborhood here in the Strip District," Koetters said.

Turzai will introduce his privatization bill on Monday and then it will be up to the General Assembly to decide if Pennsylvania government is getting out of the liquor business and stores like Marty's Market get to get in.

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