The House Liquor Committee concluded 2019 by reporting out for consideration by the full house a bill that will allow Wine Expanded Permit holders to sell a case of wine, an increase from four bottles.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R- Allegheny and Washington), was supported by Wal-Mart and the Pennsylvania Food Merchants.

MBDA opposed the bill pointing out that the ability to make larger purchases in grocery and convenience stores creates an atmosphere that hurts small business distributors since it drives multi-product customers to a food merchant – and away from all others in the marketplace selling takeout, particularly distributors.

No one in the beer business supported the bill as written. 

Republicans who voted for the bill were:

Jeffrey P. Pyle, Matthew D. Dowling, Varerie S. Gaydos, Barry J. Jozwiak, Joshua D. Kail, Andrew Lewis, Natalie Mihalek, Timothy J. O’Neal, Greg Rothman, Francis X. Ryan, Mike Tobash, Jesse Topper and Jeff C. Wheeland.

Democrats opposing were Daniel J. Deasy, Frank Burns, David M Delloso, Maria P. Donatucci, MaryLouise Isaacson, Malcolm Kenyatta, Anita Kulik, Steven R. Malagari, Adam Ravenstahl and Peter Schweyer.

Rep. Mihalek, the sponsor, explained that she introduced the bill because of a past personal inconvenience.  One time, when shopping with her children, she wanted to buy more than 4 bottles and had to re-enter the store.  She said her six-year-old son fussed as she tried to return to the store to make another purchase.  

In its communication to the committee, the MBDA noted,

“HB 1279 picks winners and losers.  Winners are the multi-million-dollar corporations that now hold the bulk of the Wine Expanded Permits.  Losers are small businesses – family owned distributors, independent grocers, mid and small sized brewers, local taverns and restaurants as well as hotel licensees without a Wine Expanded Permit.  It reduces ‘consumer convenience’ because it makes it less feasible for specialty retailers in each local market to carry a broad inventory of beverages.  Specialty retailers such as the Distributor provide the widest local selection.  Laws that reduce inventory creating fewer selections are antithetical of ‘consumer convenience’.”

HB 1279 will not be considered by the House until January at the earliest. 

At the same meeting, the committee declined to report out HB1544, a bill written by Rep. Frank Burns, (D-Johnstown) which would have placed a one-year moratorium on zombie licenses while having the state study the marketplace and, in particular, the impact of these zombie license sales on small business investors who now own liquor licenses.