Significant Changes to PA’s Liquor Laws Become Effective August 8, 2016
In early June, Pennsylvania went from having little to no chance of meaningful liquor law reform to having one of the most comprehensive updates to the Liquor Code in decades. In about 24 hours, House Bill 1690 went from a complete stall to passage and signing by the Governor — not even gossip travels that fast in the Capital. The Governor signed the Bill on June 8th, and it is effective in 60 days, which means the amendments to the Liquor Code officially become law on August 8, 2016. However, some of the new provisions will require additional work by the Liquor Control Board before the changes can be implemented. The Liquor Control Board is still very busy completing its roll-out of the new on-line licensing system, so this will likely not be at the top of its to-do list for some time.
The following is a summary of the changes to the Liquor Code as a result of HB1690 (page numbers in parenthesis refer to the actual text of House Bill 1690, Printers No. 2653, which can be found here). Is this a complete fix for the system? No, I don’t think anyone would call it that. Is it at least some progress? Depending on your prospective (consumer, retail licensee, manufacturer, etc.) the impact will either be significant or relatively minor. If you are a brewery or limited distillery, I think there is a lot to like about this. Consumers get the possibility of additional convenience, but there will be a cost for it. One area to keep an eye on is the fact that grocery stores typically have very limited shelf-space that breweries were already getting squeezed on. If grocery stores start selling wine from their licensed premises, that is going to squeeze the shelf-space even more. I doubt many grocery stores, having just spent significant amounts of money to create beer gardens, will want to, or have the space to, add significant additional shelving. And generally speaking, it is the smaller breweries and wineries who will feel the pinch the most as a result.