Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Got the Blues

Pennsylvania Blue Laws are getting me down. I just read this article online today at KDKA's website (Giant Eagle Applies for Liquor License). The headline got me kind of excited. Had the State finally changed their bass-ackward laws? Was this the first step in the right direction to true freedom of inebriation? Sadly no. I commend Giant Eagle and their efforts to fight the system, but without real changes in the legislation these little victories just aren't doing it for me anymore.

A quick sinopsis of Pennsylvania Blue Laws:
- You can only by wine or spirits at the State run liquor stores. One exemption to this law is wineries themselves. They are permitted to sell their own product on the premises.
- Beer can only be purchased at a licensed beer distributor or six pack shop. Distributor are only allowed to sell beer by the case (24+), and Six pack shops by...well, six packs (really expensive six packs).
- Liquor stores are only open till 9PM, and all except for the larger ones are closed on Sundays.
- Up until recent years, the beer distributors were also closed on Sundays.

These wonderful laws mean that while at the grocery store, there is no beer aisle to walk down for you to purchase something cold and frothy to wash down the pretzels and 20 cans of Cheez Whiz you just bought. It means that you can't swing by the corner gas station for a quick six pack or bottle of wine on the way home from a long a day at work. It's 11PM, your girlfriend just broke up with you, and you need a fifth of something stiff to drown your sorrows; you're shit outta luck.

Now in truth, the State Store system doesn't bother me as much as the beer. There are tons of State Stores around and you always know that no matter which store you go into, you're gonna find a decent selection and the price is always the same. I've done a lot of traveling, and I will say that the State Stores are competitively priced compared to liquor prices in other states. In some States all you can find is Joe's Liquor, where you have a grand selection of 20 dust covered bottles, and the guy manning the register looks like your aunt Beth on crack, but with a smaller mustache. I love the selection here in PA. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board happens to be the largest single purchaser of wines and spirits in the Country. That means purchasing power, which on many occasions has led me to find some killer deals. Hell, they even have free tastings several times a week. But most of things I like about the State Store system have nothing to do with it being run by the State. It's because they are so freek'n large and you can find them everywhere. The benefits would still be there if run in the private sector, and at least you'd have more options when caught in a jam.

For instance, several years back there was a very bad snow storm on Valentine's Day. The State decided to shut down all non-essential government jobs and send people home early. Well the liquor stores are run by the State, and all the workers are government employees. What happened was, every average Joe who was planning on stopping in for a bottle of wine on their way home from work was left standing out in the cold...literally. There goes that nice romantic evening you had planned. The government was responsible for hundreds, maybe thousands, of men NOT getting laid that special evening. That is completely unacceptable in my book, and that makes me a sad panda.

From the article, Giant Eagle continues to fight the good fight. One of their grocery stores had a State Store built inside of it several years back, but it was essentially still its own entity. It has its own separate registers and all the employees are with the State. It's just your typical State Store that you happened to have to walk through a grocery store to get to. This new six pack shop is going to be the same thing. The employees won't be with the State, but it will still have to be a separate entity that just happens to be connected to the grocery store. It's still gonna be just another typical six-pack shop. The prices will still be 3 times what they should. There are just too many restrictions. I think Giant Eagle's plan is to show the government that having everything in one place (one-stop-shop) isn't a bad thing. We can say it over and over again, but by actually doing it and showing that it works, hopefully it will have some effect.

Every time a vote comes up on this subject in Harrisburg, the naysayers and the tea tottlers all scream "Evil, evil, sin, sin!!! By making alcohol more accessible, people will drink more, babies will die, drunk driving will become an epidemic, and your daughter will get knocked up by a black man! Do you want that on your conscience!" I mean really. By keeping me from buying a 12 pack of beer and forcing me to by a whole case, you are keeping me from drinking too much? Because me walking down the block to the 7-Eleven to get a bottle of wine, when I might have had a little too much already, is so much more dangerous than me getting in my car to drive the two miles to the nearest Wines & Spirits. And worst of all, all these damn Blue Laws have forced me to take measures into my own hands and build a fully stocked bar in my basement. Anyone who knows me will tell you "that is a bad idea." If that isn't being irresponsible, I don't know what is.


  1. You hit on some really important points, there. I'd like to talk a bit more on one of them:

    You can come up with ways the system benefits the state, and indeed there are many; but, as you pointed out, these aren't the reasons these laws were enacted in the first place. They had out-dated motives like church influencing state and racism.

    Most drugs became illegal that way, even on the federal level. Is cocaine bad for you? Absolutely. But it was outlawed as an excuse to throw black people in jail, since they were the primary users at the time the ban was penned. Opium was to oppress Asian immigrants.

    But Marijuana is special. The overt reason it was outlawed was good, wholesome oppression of the Mexican immigrant population. But the real reason was jealousy. The head of the bureau that would become the DEA was jealous of the success of other offices like the FBI while the tasks put to his office kept things small. So he lobbied to expand the definition of what his office did. He wanted to outlaw a drug popular enough that it would keep him busy, but not so popular as to create another public outcry like prohibition. Pot fit the bill. A few decades later, we have a "war on drugs" pumping obscene amounts of money into his bureau. So he achieved his goals at the cost of enabling organized crime, putting people in jail, and killing both law enforcement agents and those involved in illegal drugs.

    Way to go, asshole.

    Greed, racism, religious zealotry... but once something is on the books it's damn hard to take it off.

  2. You're right on the Marijuana, but you missed one key factor that most people haven't a clue about. At some point, look up the banning of marijuana and how it relates to the paper industry and a small up-and-coming industrial manufacturer named DuPont.

    It's a classic tail of politicians lining there pockets for some greedy mogul to corner the market on some industry. Hemp was grown by just about everybody, and was used to make all sorts of goods, including paper. With hemp out of the picture, a new kind of paper made from the pulp of trees had no real competitor.

    Am I saying that marijuana was outlawed because of paper? No. Though a lot of pot heads would like to believe that. But, I am saying that the financial incentive was there for the government officials to believe whatever propaganda or reasoning was given to them to pass the ban.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.