Beer and wine used to only be allowed to be sold in state liquor stores, state beer distributors, delis, and bars. Consumers and politicians alike tried for decades to get Pennsylvania out of the liquor sales business. Several House Republicans first rejected the bill and proposed legislation that would privatize the entire liquor system in Pennsylvania and get rid of the state’s liquor control board. However, parties in the House and Senate were eventually successful in gathering support to pass Act 39. In June 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law changes that allow licensed grocery stores to sell beer and a maximum of four bottles of wine to a grocery store at a time.
Now, grocery stores and drug stores can sell beer and wine. However, grocery stores that sell alcohol have to hold a café license and provide seating for at least 30 people in a separate section of the grocery store. Shoppers also must purchase beer and wine at a separate cash register than their other groceries.
Before this law took effect, around 30% of wine was purchased out of state. By increasing in-state wine sales, alcohol sales taxes benefit Pennsylvania, not its neighboring states. This impact is shown in the 2017-18 fiscal year, when the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board reported record sales with $381.9 million in liquor tax. While this is only a 3% increase from the previous year, it has taken several years for the state to auction off licenses and as a result, Pennsylvania hasn’t realized a lot of increased sales tax and fee increases immediately. Some licenses auctioned off by Pennsylvania have sold for over $500,000 each. This money from the alcohol sales tax contributed to Pennsylvania’s schools, health and human services programs, law enforcement, and public safety. Furthermore, Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol, an organization designed to decrease underage access, found that there were significantly lower levels of alcohol sales to minors in retail stores than in bars, restaurants, or other outlets.