The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 15, 2013

What we have is better


Daily Item

---- — For those who are on the fence about whether Pennsylvania liquor stores should be privatized, drive over the border into any adjacent state and pull into one their privately owned liquor stores.

The parking lots are littered with discarded plastic bottles, empty snack bags, and cigarette butts. Inside, the air is contaminated by layers of stale cigarette smoke. There are stacks of liquor and wine boxes waiting to be shelved. By the check-out counter are racks of packaged candy, cookies, gum and beef jerky. Behind the clerk are shelves of cigars, cigarettes, and chewing tobacco and in the corner an old bathtub full of cheap gin. Because of frequent late-night break-ins, there's often a gun behind the counter.

Is this what we want on our main streets? In the mall where our children go to the movies? Next to our supermarkets? Do we want our highways lined with road signs touting cheap liquor sales?

Compare this to our current stores where only liquor and wine are sold where the floors and shelves are clean, and the staff well-dressed, friendly and helpful. They are rarely robbed. In spite of the "Hot Deals" offered by private stores, our Chairman's Selection special sales are better.

That's only what we see. There are more reasons to support our current system: All taxes dollars and moneys remaining after expenses are transferred to the State Treasury. One hundred percent of required state and local sales taxes are collected and reported to the IRS. The PLCB operates 608 stores in the Commonwealth; they are all leased or rented from private landlords and contribute $41 million to the state's economy. Another $38 million is contributed to the economy through outsourcing warehouse facilities for housing liquor awaiting distribution. They sponsor classes for law enforcement personnel on how to safely break up underage drinking parties, find the source of the supplier of the alcohol, and identify fake IDs. They also conduct classes on making their stores an asset to the community. The PLCB's zero tolerance policy led to its employees checking 1,355,202 IDs in 2012 and has almost prevented sales to minors and intoxicated persons. As the Board and local stores are held responsible for any liquor laws not upheld, there is no incentive to sell to minors.

Compare this with privately run establishments. Before privatization gets in, let's think about the potential negative impact of what privately run liquor stores. The PLCB runs a tight ship and government management, in some cases, can be a good thing. It's up to us to decide when that is. Once we change the law, it's too late. We're stuck with its repercussions.

April Fairweather, Lewisburg