State tries ‘con­ve­nience’ in beer sales

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - OPINION -

Rack up an­other mile­stone in the ever-chang­ing land­scape of booze sales in Penn­syl­va­nia.

Some state res­i­dents can now do some­thing their coun­ter­parts in other states no doubt take for granted.

They can pop into their lo­cal con­ve­nience store and grab a six-pack of beer. At least in one store. Re­mem­ber, this is Penn­syl­va­nia. The state con­tin­ues to take baby steps when it comes to drag­ging their reg­u­la­tions con­cern­ing the sale of booze out of the Dark Ages.

Yes­ter­day Wawa jumped into the beer sales mar­ket in Penn­syl­va­nia.

Yes, you can now buy beer at a Wawa. So long as it’s the one on Naa­mans Creek Road in Con­cord, Delaware County.

But just how “con­ve­nient” this of­fer­ing is de­pends on your def­i­ni­tion of the word, and it has noth­ing do with a “con­ve­nience” store, and ev­ery­thing to do with Penn­syl­va­nia’s out­dated laws.

While Wawa has sold beer for years at their hun­dreds of stores in Vir­ginia and Florida, this is the first store in Penn­syl­va­nia to of­fer cus­tomers the abil­ity to grab a six-pack on the way home.

It’s also the only one — at least for now.

That is at least in part due to the labyrinth of hoops they have to jump through, as well as the bu­reau­cratic mess that still stands for progress in this state.

All of this stems from a bill passed by the Leg­is­la­ture last sum­mer that paved the way for wine and beer sales in gro­cery stores, bars and ho­tels.

It also opened the door to beer sales in con­ve­nience stores. Ba­si­cally, any holder of a restau­rant li­cense can now get in the fun — with some re­stric­tions, of course. For con­ve­nience stores such as Wawa, that posed a dilemma, namely the restau­rant. That’s why Wawa built the sit-down restau­rant into their Con­cord fa­cil­ity when they de­cided to ren­o­vate what was al­ready one of their larger stores.

The law re­quires beer sales be lim­ited to a sep­a­rate part of the store, and that the beer must be pur­chased — and paid for — there. In other words, you won’t be able to sim­ply pick up a six-pack and pay for it along with your sand­wich or other munchies. They must be done sep­a­rately, just as they are at su­per­mar­kets that of­fer beer sales.

Yes, this is how Penn­syl­va­nia de­fines con­ve­nience.

Cus­tomers are lim­ited to buy­ing two six-packs at a time, or if you want to sit down in the restau­rant and en­joy a brew with your Shorti, a sin­gle beer.

Then in Novem­ber, the state jazzed up the beer laws a bit more. Af­ter com­plaints from beer dis­trib­u­tors, they lifted the long­time re­stric­tion that lim­ited them to sell­ing beer by the case or keg. They now can sell you a six-pack, the same as su­per­mar­kets can.

Wawa has in­di­cated that at least for now, this is a on­e­store op­por­tu­nity, al­though they in­di­cated they cer­tainly would mon­i­tor how pop­u­lar beer sales are in Con­cord as they con­sider pos­si­bly ex­pand­ing to other stores.

But re­mem­ber that ex­ist­ing Wawas, in par­tic­u­lar many of their older stores, will be hard­pressed to meet the state’s restau­rant re­quire­ment with­out a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion.

Wawa first started the push to sell beer at the Con­cord store back in the sum­mer of 2015. Yes, that’s how long it takes. Some res­i­dents op­posed the move, and su­per­vi­sors heard from them be­fore fi­nally grant­ing the li­cense to Wawa.

In the mean­time, we again ask why Penn­syl­va­nia re­mains in the booze busi­ness. It is al­most in­evitably done bet­ter, cheaper and with more con­ve­nience for cus­tomers by the pri­vate sec­tor.

We again await the next pri­va­ti­za­tion push in Har­ris­burg, and won­der if this will be the year Penn­syl­va­nia fi­nally comes out of the Dark Ages.

For now, if you Got­taHavva beer with that Shorti, you’ll have to head south­east to Con­cord.

In Penn­syl­va­nia, that’s what stands for progress.

The state con­tin­ues to take baby steps when it comes to drag­ging their reg­u­la­tions con­cern­ing the sale of booze out of the Dark Ages.

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