PA Drinkers Defy Lockdown: Cross State Lines to Buy Booze

Ya gots ta do what ya gots ta do!

Hard times call for harsh measures!

source: Detroit News

The unparalleled decision a month ago to close the state-owned stores that sell nearly all of Pennsylvania’s liquor and much of its wine prompted some people to drive across state lines to stock up, risking a misdemeanor charge.

Although Ohio, West Virginia and Delaware have cracked down, vehicles with Pennsylvania tags continue to crowd liquor store parking lots in New York, New Jersey and Maryland border towns amid continuing restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf began closing businesses in March, and the Liquor Control Board, after consulting with him, soon shut down its retail outlets. Many liquor cabinets are running low and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s pivot to online sales has been, for most, an exercise in frustration in a state of nearly 13 million people.

“Most people don’t have a large store of liquor in their house. For one thing, it’s expensive………… I think people are running out of their daily drink, and that’s putting the pressure on.”

Lew Bryson
Writer, Langhorne, PA

A couple weeks after the outlets closed, the liquor board restarted its meager online sales system, ramping up this past week by bringing back some workers to fill boxes for home delivery. Before the pandemic, the state liquor board did about 180,000 daily transactions, but as workers began returning, it had only been able to fill more than 4,000 online orders a day.

On Saturday, the board announced 175 of the nearly 600 stores will begin taking orders by phone starting Monday for curbside service, with each customer limited to six bottles.

The month of relative sobriety has reinvigorated the perpetual debate over the state’s Depression-era liquor store system. Pennsylvania has about six liquor stores – compared to 20 for typical control states – for every 100,000 adults, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. States without government control systems have about 35 stores per 100,000 adults.

“I think without intending to, the governor just reopened the privatization discussion……..”

Jeff Pyle
PA State Rep/Armstrong County

He said people are angry.

“They walk up to that store, they see all those bottles and they want to know why they can’t have them,” Pyle said.

The liquor board is an independent agency, but its three members include Wolf’s former chief of staff, Mary Isenhour, and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, whom Wolf elevated as chair.

“You can say this is on (the) PLCB, but let’s not debate who’s driving the boat. This is Wolf’s show,” Pyle said.

Pennsylvania drinkers defy virus restrictions, cross state lines to get booze

Calamity Jane