Alcohol

Pennsylvania Has Wine in Grocery Stores!

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The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is rolling out wine vending machines in grocery stores across the state, starting with two in the Harrisburg area. Each machine holds 1,000 bottles of 53 (count 'em) different wines, which you can buy if you swipe your driver's license to prove you're 21 or older, look into a camera monitored by a liquor control board employee to prove you are the person you say you are, and breathe into an alcohol sensor to prove you are not intoxicated. The machines, which operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (but not on Sunday), accept credit cards and provide information about each of the wines.

Sadly, as a native Pennsylvanian I can testify that these  pernsnickety machines, despite their limited selection and arbitrary requirements, count as a major step forward in convenience for consumers in the Keystone State, who heretofore could not buy wine in the supermarket at all. Furthermore, in the last decade or two the state-run outlets that sell wine and liquor, which used to resemble Soviet grocery stores, have noticeably improved in terms of hours, inventory, and service. But the better Pennsylvania's liquor and wine monopoly gets at serving its customers, the more it undermines its raison d'etre, which is to discourage drinking by making it harder and more expensive. If the state's system operates just like a customer-friendly business (and it still has a ways to go on that score), what's the point (aside from raising revenue and employing state workers, which would justify a government monopoly in any industry)?

Last year Katherine Mangu-Ward noted that Virginia's governor wants to privatize liquor and wine distribution in the Old Dominion.

[Thanks to Josh Miller for the tip.]