The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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April 26, 2014

More than 1 too many

Drunk with Sunday success, LCB shuns law capping stores

HARRISBURG — Sunday booze sales have proved so popular that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is breaking a state law limiting how many stores the system can operate on the first day of the week.

And with no resistance to its efforts yet, the liquor system is pressing on with plans to add Sunday hours at more stores, LCB spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said.

The reason no one has intervened is that it should be the liquor control board’s job to ensure the law is being followed, said Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.

Turzai has been the chief proponent of dismantling the liquor system.

Republican lawmakers and legislative staff have been debating what to do about the Liquor Control Board’s move to open more stores on Sunday, despite the law prohibiting it, Miskin said.

GOP: Dismantle LCB

The House Republicans’ preferred long-term solution: Privatize the liquor system, Miskin said.

“It’s another reason they need to get out of the business of selling alcohol and focus on becoming a regulatory and enforcement agency,” Miskin said. “The LCB is flouting and ignoring the law. It’s an example of the inherent conflict: Either you’re an enforcement and regulatory agency or you’re a business.”

Kriedeman said the system has been exceeding the Sunday store limit since it abandoned an experiment with wine vending machines in 32 grocery stores. Those kiosks were counted as liquor store locations. When they were eliminated, the board’s store count dropped, meaning the percentage of stores with Sunday hours increased, Kriedeman said.

However, after that the LCB continued to add locations with Sunday hours even while closing other stores, she said.

A bill to loosen the 25 percent restriction passed both chambers of the General Assembly in 2010. But the bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Ed Rendell, over objections about another facet of the legislation.

That means the 25 percent ceiling remains.

“The fact is, the law is the law,” Miskin said. “We need to kill the LCB’s conflict.”

At the end of 2012-13, the LCB had 26 percent of its stores open on Sunday, according to the board’s year-end retail report.

Now, 27.5 percent of the state’s 608 liquor stores are open on Sunday, Kriedeman said.

“We want to be responsive and meet consumer demand,” she said.

Any opposition to the LCB’s expansion of Sunday sales has been forestalled as Republicans focus on completely dismantling the system and Democrats push Sunday sales as a key part of “modernization” to keep the state store system intact.

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