Pa. senators reignite debate on expanding booze sales

By KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — State senators are again tackling the issue of if and how to expand liquor sales in Pennsylvania. 

The chairman of the state Senate Law and Justice Committee says Pennsylvania's policy on alcohol is "out of balance," including, he says, retail opportunities for liquor not expanding at the same rate as beer and wine after changes to the law a few years ago. The committee held a hearing on several bills, one of which is sponsored by Republican Gene Yaw.

"Pennsylvania is significantly under-retailed for spirits, especially when you compare Pennsylvania with our neighboring states, and even when you compare Pennsylvania with other control states," he said.

Yaw's bill would allow for private-sector sales of spirits, while maintaining the existing state store system, and is not, he claims, an attempt at privatization. While that may not be Yaw's intention, James Brewster, the ranking Democrat on the committee, says that would be the ultimate result.

"Because eventually our states stores — many of them — would have to shut down. They just can't compete," he said.

Much of the hearing was devoted to familiar arguments about the potential social costs of expanding the availability of alcoholic beverages.