The ongoing entry of the homegrown Country Fair convenience store chain into the business of selling beer and wine punctuates how much the experience of shopping for those products in Pennsylvania has changed.
As reporter Madeleine O’Neill detailed this week, six Country Fair locations have started selling beer in the past year, and all but one of those stores sells bottles of wine. Wine sales will be coming to the sixth store as well. . .
The payoff for consumers as beer and wine are sold in more places? Ask Deon Person.
“It’s just convenient,” Person told O’Neill as he picked up a six-pack at the Country Fair store at West 18th and Sassafras streets. . .
Expansion of consumer choice and convenience started in earnest in 2010 with a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that rejected a challenge by the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania — a trade group representing beer distributors — to grocery stores’ right to use their restaurant liquor licenses to sell two six-packs of beer for takeout.
Two additional changes signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2016 further expanded shoppers’ options. The first allowed grocery and convenience stores selling beer to also sell up to four 750-milliliter bottles of wine to go. Previously wine could be purchased only at state-run liquor stores or wineries. . .
Second change helped level the playing field for beer distributors by allowing them to sell beer in any quantity, including six-packs, quarts and growlers. Distributors previously had been limited to sales by the case or keg.
We’ve long advocated for liquor law reforms that focus more on those doing the buying instead of those doing the selling, and bring Pennsylvania more in line with other states. And we still believe the state shouldn’t be in the liquor business except for roles in regulation and law enforcement.
But the changes in beer and wine sales have gone a long way toward improving access, choice and convenience for consumers. In addition, the LCB expanded hours and improved customer service at the state liquor stores.
It took far too long, but now Pennsylvania consumers have more options to buy what they want in the quantities they want and where they want. Imagine that.