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The problem with PA State Stores

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Oh that situation was an unpleasant surprise when I road tripped through the state years ago. And if I hadn't happened into a hotel bar the second night I would never known that the bars sold six packs (which I'd never seen legally done before).

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what?  you mean the government does not do everything perfectly for everybody?

 

the PA "idea" of wine distribution stinks.  one of the things I hate about going to a nice eatery out of state is:

you like the wine, you write it down, you go home, it's not available.

 

special order?  did you say.....  lets' gin up 20 PA residents and send them to their local state store for a special order.

21 of them will report being treated like a heroin addict in a pharmacy want to special order some 'good stuff'

 

I made such a special order inquiry.  the clerk knew the wine, immediately recognized the name.  and then promptly informed me that he could special order it - case lot only - but I'd never get it because the restaurants buy up the entire production.

 

and the pricing . . . obviously none of the stuff on the shelf has any cost for shipping.  for special orders you have to order an entire case - and pay for next minute shipping/handling/delivery from the winery to your local store.  $100+ per case (nine bottles) is not unusual.

 

so, whenever I'm out of state I'm always on the alert for wine vendors.  have trunk-on-wheels, will shop.

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It looks like each store has about three times the employees that a larger out of state liquor store would have. A big enough voting block to make them worth appeasing by a certain party. PA LCB (liquor control board) knows that if they overstaff they have a better chance of survival.

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still   ....

 

these days states are so desperate for $$$

 

it should occur to them to open up sales to independents and add enough tax to the situation to make it worthwhile for the state

 

NH has state stores.  they used to be cheaper than MA.  they are located just across the boarder at the first  Interstate off ramp.

 

and they sold on Sundays.

 

took MA a zillion years to sell on Sundays.  first only after noon.  now after 10 AM. you have to show a punched

 

" Ive been to church " card 

 

you could also not mow your lawn before noon.

 

not sure if thats still true.

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Oh that situation was an unpleasant surprise when I road tripped through the state years ago. And if I hadn't happened into a hotel bar the second night I would never known that the bars sold six packs (which I'd never seen legally done before).

It's really weird -- bars and taverns, and now some selected grocery stores and supermarkets, can sell you up to two six-packs.  If you want more than that you'll have to go to a beer distributor, but there you'll have to buy your beer by the whole case.

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What's more the PA liquor control board agents keep hogging the best parking spaces in the parking lots of DE and NJ liquor stores.

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It looks like each store has about three times the employees that a larger out of state liquor store would have. A big enough voting block to make them worth appeasing by a certain party. PA LCB (liquor control board) knows that if they overstaff they have a better chance of survival.

 

This is really the crux of the issue. It's all about politics, union support ($$$), and over-paid employees who receive a state pension for running a cash register. 

 

Read Lew Bryson's fact page: http://noplcb.blogspot.com/ 

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What's more the PA liquor control board agents keep hogging the best parking spaces in the parking lots of DE and NJ liquor stores.

I'm a bit skeptical of that.  I've heard rumors, especially around holiday time, of such "stakeouts," but I've never personally known of anyone picked up for transporting booze across state lines.  Have you? And even if it IS true, that's a risk I'm more than willing to take to avoid shopping in the state stores.

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This is really the crux of the issue. It's all about politics, union support ($$$), and over-paid employees who receive a state pension for running a cash register. 

 

Read Lew Bryson's fact page: http://noplcb.blogspot.com/ 

To add insult to injury, state store employees are not informed enough to even answer questions about wine.  And the prices in the state stores are driven so high because of the "Johnstown Flood Tax" -- a hidden 18% tax that's tacked on to every bottle of wine and liquor sold in the state, even though it doesn't appear on the receipt and even though the tax, dating back to 1936, was supposed to be temporary.  "The $200+ million collected annually no longer goes to flood victims. Instead, it goes into the general fund for discretionary use by lawmakers."  http://www.johnstownfloodtax.com/

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FD :

 

if you live in a state like PA re wine :

 

with minimal kindness  :

 

it just your own fault that you can't get face'd Book'd

 

Twitted Out  etc

 

to get a Wave of Wine to fix this

 

That Couch is pretty comfortable, No ?

 

Mine is.

 

:raz:

 

mentioned w some respect.


Edited by rotuts (log)

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FD :

 

if you live in a state like PA re wine :

 

with minimal kindness  :

 

it just your own fault that you can't get face'd Book'd

 

Twitted Out  etc

 

to get a Wave of Wine to fix this

 

That Couch is pretty comfortable, No ?

 

Mine is.

 

:raz:

 

mentioned w some respect.

think I'm hearing your message, and if I am, what you don't seem to get is the power of the PA Liquor Control Board -- AND the $$$$ behind it.  I'm afraid even social media isn't the answer here.

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I'll offer a partial defense of the state stores.  I live in a rather smallish community compared to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, yet I have three state stores within 15 miles of home.  One is a Premium Collection store which has a better selection of products and a significant number of Chairman's Selection wines which, if one is judicious, can yield some real bargains.  In terms of variety, this store offers a better selection than most of the private stores I have walked into over the line in Maryland.  For example, I recently decided I wanted to purchase a Txakoli wine from the Basque region of Spain.  The state store had one on the shelf.  I would have been shocked had one of the nearby Maryland liquor store carried it. 

 

As for price, I don't notice a huge difference between Pennsylvania and Maryland when I have attempted to make a comparison although it is, of course, possible to shop around in Maryland whereas the prices are always the same across Pennsylvania.  Other states are perhaps cheaper, but they are not nearby so I don't know.

 

As for special orders, I have ordered case lots of wine on three occasions.  Twice, it was expeditious and problem-free.  The third time, I seemed to be the victim of a certain amount of incompetence but eventually my order was successfully placed.  At no time was I told that restaurants bought up the entire supply, nor was I charged anywhere near $100 for shipping.  I think it was less than $20 each time, though I didn't ask for expedited handling and that might have been a factor.

 

As for the employees being paid a living wage and receiving a pension, I have no problem with that. 

 

My primary gripe with the system is its inflexibility.  For everyday drinking, I happen to prefer a brand of Bourbon and a brand of Scotch that the LCB has chosen not to sell.  That means I can't buy the products anywhere in the state.  Therefore, if I want to drink those brands, I must buy them out of state.  In a more user friendly system, a product unavailable in one store would be available in another or available by special order but in Pennsylvania, if it isn't favored, it can't be had. 

 

A secondary concern is that some of the Chairman's Selections have been a bit of a scam.  Yes, the prices were terrific, but only if that wine had been offered at that price a few years previously.  Some of the wines were well past their prime and, no doubt, that is why the wineries and/or distributors were willing to unload them cheaply.  Unfortunately, many customers would look only at the price and the WS rating and not realize that the wine is but a ghost of its former self.  I don't think the practice is as prevalent as it used to be but it still happens.

 

A final concern is that many of the employees lack either training or interest to be able to answer questions about their products.  That, however, may be the case in other states as well.  I don't know.  The LCB should try to do better to train and inspire, however.

 

In sum, I don't see the picture being as bleak as others do.  Perhaps that is because I don't have ready access to better stores over the state line.  I'm somewhat dissatisfied, but if changes mean private stores like most of those I see in Maryland where the wine selection, in particular, is limited to Turning Leaf, Yellowtail, and its ilk, I'll stick with the status quo.

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PA state stores suck in SO many ways, but especially the selection.

Comparing the tiny state store in Mansfield, PA to the privately owned GCP Discount Liquors and Wines in Horseheads, NY...GCP is easily 20 times the size and has much better pricing!

Some of the other NY area stores are not as big as GCP but have a much better selection than the state stores in the adjacent area of PA.

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I just went to Moore Bros in Wilmington. What a contrast to the PLCB stores... great selection of great wines... super knowledgeable staff...sensible prices.

 

.

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I just went to Moore Bros in Wilmington. What a contrast to the PLCB stores... great selection of great wines... super knowledgeable staff...sensible prices.

 

.

The folks who work at Moore Brothers are the best!!!!  They're unbelievably knowledgeable, and their expertise comes not only from tasting, but from visiting with and getting to know the winemakers.  Ask a question about anything they sell, and don't be surprised if they open a bottle and try it with you.  They're also wonderful at helping you pair wines with food, whether you're cooking or dining out.  And if it's recipes or techniques you're interested in, talk to Kathryn, who is a Cordon Bleu graduate.  They carry a selection of wines you just won't find anywhere else, AND they keep a record of your purchases, so the next time you go back, if you want more of that "red wine from northern Italy," they'll know EXACTLY what you're asking for.  I could go on and on about Moore Brothers...   :biggrin:

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Moore Bros. is a rarity, but at least it's possible in states without Big Brother. That said, while the overwhelming majority of LCB clerks know little about what they sell a few do. And the LCB holds classes for employees who want to learn more about wine. Alas, these folks are hard to find.

My largest complaint is lack of breadth in stock. Aquavit by special order only, and even then I can't get even by SLO what's stocked by most NJ stores; same goes for eau de vies.


Edited by rlibkind (log)
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I just went to Moore Bros in Wilmington. What a contrast to the PLCB stores... great selection of great wines... super knowledgeable staff...sensible prices.

 

.

 

Last time I was in Canal's, in Cherry Hill, asked a stock-boy about where to find a particular wine. Not only did he take directly to the section he was well educated on the style and willfully answered several questions. This kid was maybe 25 years old. 

 

That does not happen in any PLCB store.

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PA State Stores are not perfect, to be sure.  However, the criticism that they have no selection is false.  The website is *really* good.  Do they carry *everything*?  Of course not...but name a store that does.

 

http://www.finewineandgoodspirits.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?storeId=10051&catalogId=10051&langId=-1

 

Their prices are in line with most and lower than *a lot* of places I shop.  PA liquor law are antiquated and stupid, but again...not the worst I have seen.  I would love to simply be able yo get online and order what I want, when I want it and not have Big Brother keeping me safe.  lol   But the system isn't anywhere near as bad as some of you are making it out to be and it is actually better than the majority of states I have visited.

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I live on the border and I can tell you that State Stores are a few bucks more expensive per bottle than right over the line.

 

The big new stores do have a nice selection. The average one does not really have a good wine selection.Lots of crap wine too.

 

And there aren't enough of them out in the country. Little towns might as well be dry. They can support two supermarkets but apparently not a state store.

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20 minutes ago, edgarallanpoe said:

But the system isn't anywhere near as bad as some of you are making it out to be and it is actually better than the majority of states I have visited.

 

You obviously haven't been to my area.

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3 hours ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

 

You obviously haven't been to my area.

 

Well, in my defense I did say *majority*.   Also, the website pretty much takes care of the selection issue and I have found their shipping to be quite reasonable.

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