Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
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The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is an independent government agency that manages the beverage alcohol industry in Pennsylvania. It is responsible for licensing the possession, sale, storage, transportation, importation and manufacture of wine, spirits and malt or brewed beverages in the commonwealth, as well as operating a system of liquor distribution (retailing) and providing education about the harmful effects of alcohol consumption. The PLCB was established in conjunction with the 21st Amendment and the repeal of prohibition. In 1933, just four days before the sale of alcohol became legal in Pennsylvania, the Board was officially organized. Upon its creation, Governor Gifford Pinchot stated that the purpose of the Board was to "discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible."
The Board is composed of three Governor-appointed members. They are appointed to staggered four-year terms ending the third Tuesday in May, and are subject to a two-thirds confirmation vote in the state Senate. It has its headquarters in the Northwest Office Building in Harrisburg.
On-premise retail licenses and off-premise wholesale licenses are distributed via a quota system. Under this structure there is one retail license granted for every 3,000 inhabitants and one wholesale license granted for every 30,000 inhabitants within a given county. There are more than 20,000 businesses in Pennsylvania which are licensed by the PLCB to handle alcoholic beverages. Restaurants and food operations that are licensed to serve or sell drinks in Pennsylvania must purchase their liquor from the PLCB, which operates about 600 PA Wine & Spirits stores (which are being gradually rebranded as Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores, starting in 2012) statewide. If a wine or spirit is not on the list of registered brands, then it cannot be bought or sold in Pennsylvania.
The Board also supervises local option referenda in counties and municipalities that wish to prohibit or permit establishments to sell or serve alcohol.
Unlike other Pennsylvania administrative agencies, appeals from decisions of the Board are to the local Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas rather than directly to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
- Joseph E. "Skip" Brion was appointed to the Board by Governor Tom Corbett, on July 6, 2011, and was confirmed by unanimous vote of the state Senate on October 18, 2011. Brion is currently serving as the Board's Chairman.
- Robert S. Marcus, a resident of Indiana, Pa., was nominated to the Board by Governor Ed Rendell on June 1, 2007, and unanimously confirmed by the state Senate on Nov. 14, 2007 and reconfirmed on October 15, 2010.
- Former Congressman Tim Holden was nominated to the Board by Governor Tom Corbett, on June 14, 2013. He was unanimously confirmed by the State Senate on Nov. 13, 2013 and sworn in a day later.
Programs to deter underage drinking
The enforcement of liquor laws is the responsibility of the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. This function is fully funded by the PLCB out of operational revenues.
A bureau established by the PLCB provides educational material to youth, legal consumers and beverage alcohol servers. This includes:
- RAMP (Responsible Alcohol Management Program) which is directed at establishments selling alcoholic beverages.
The PLCB policy of "zero tolerance" for sales to minors and intoxicated individuals has resulted in store employees challenging, or "carding", approximately 753,000 suspected minors for the period 10/21/09-6/30/10. This policy and effective implementation are considered to be an excellent deterrent to underage drinking in Pennsylvania. However, according to Stacey Witalec, Director of External Affairs at the PLCB: "... because our stores are not licensed establishments, BLCE does not perform compliance checks in them.", so their deterrence factor is really unknown.
The Bureau of Alcohol Education annually awards approximately $1 million in grants to Reduce Underage and Dangerous Drinking to colleges and universities, community organizations, law enforcement departments, and high schools. Those same groups send representatives to an annual Alcohol Education conference for prevention professionals in Pennsylvania. Another annual event is the Alcohol Awareness Poster contest for students in grades K through 12.
Efforts to privatize
For over forty years, starting with the administration of Governor Milton Shapp, efforts have existed to abolish the Board and privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania. Critics of the Board argue that the commonwealth would generate significant income by selling state liquor stores to private entities while continuing to reap millions in annual sales taxes from alcohol sales and liquor tax revenues. Further, it has been cited that customers could benefit from lower prices, longer hours and wider selection at privately run liquor stores. In addition, privatizing liquor sales would allow the commonwealth to recoup taxes from sales in neighboring states such as New Jersey, Ohio and Delaware. Despite these arguments, efforts to privatize have largely stalled. According to Thornburgh, "the principal roadblock to reform has traditionally been an odd coalition of state store employee unions, fundamentalist anti-alcohol groups and organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, all of which perceive that they have legitimate interests which are not susceptible to statewide budgetary considerations. It would take some courageous leadership to stare down this combination, something I do not see in the commonwealth today."  In September 2014, PA House proposed a bill that would decriminalize purchasing wine and liquor in other states and transporting it to the state.
Opponents of privatization argue that keeping the stores public would generate significantly more money over time.
- "Yuengling A History of America's Oldest Brewery by Mark A. Noon, p 131. ISBN 0-7864-1972-5. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005.
- "Contact Us." Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Retrieved on November 16, 2009.
- Saget, Joel. "PA House GOP Seeks To Rekindle Liquor Privatization Debate". Retrieved 17 September 2014.