GUEST BLOG: Beer Sales Reform Measure Benefits Consumers and Family-Owned Businesses

By: Senator Chuck McIlhinney

January 19, 2017

Senator McIlhinney is the Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and played a critical role in creating both the liquor modernization law and the new law pertaining to beer distributors.

2016 saw some of the most dramatic changes to liquor and beer sales in Pennsylvania’s history, including a sweeping modernization bill approved in June that expanded the number of retailers that are permitted to sell various types of alcohol.

Although these historic reforms offered consumers an unprecedented new level of convenience, the law left beer distributors at a significant competitive disadvantage. Coupled with the growing number of grocery stores that are now offering beer for sale, new retailers began siphoning off business from distributors, who were still shackled by antiquated laws regarding the type and quantity of products they were allowed to sell.

An additional reform measure approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Governor Wolf in October helped level the playing field for beer distributors and provide even more options for consumers. The new law, which went into effect this week, allows beer distributors to sell beer in different quantities, including six-packs and growlers. The law also allows consumers to mix and match individual bottles to sample a wider variety of available products.

The end result is a law that offers broader options for consumers, helps local beer distributors remain viable in the new marketplace, and supports small brewers by allowing more people to sample locally brewed products before committing to buying an entire case.

It’s rare in public policy to balance every competing interest in a way that benefits all parties. It is extremely encouraging that the changes we’ve made over the past several months to all of Pennsylvania’s liquor and beer sales laws seem to be an exception to that rule.


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