Who Controls the Alcohol?
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will tell you that its role is to monitor the sale and distribution of alcohol. It would also tell you that it profits from that. It is fairly easy to see that these two statements do not go together. In fact, it’s like putting the fox in charge of henhouse. Because the commonwealth makes a profit from it, the commonwealth does not control the sale and distribution of alcohol: it monitors and encourages it.
According to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board website, Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits stores generated approximately $2.2 billion in sales in 2012-13. The PLCB returned more than $512 million to the Pennsylvania Treasury, including $311.24 million in liquor taxes, $121.09 million in sales tax and a $80 million transfer to the General Fund. (http://www.lcb.state.pa.us/PLCB/About/FAQs/index.htm)
One look at the numbers, and it’s easy to see where Pennsylvania’s sympathies really lie. $2.2 billion in sales is a lot of money. Pennsylvania makes a substantial amount of revenue from the sale and distribution of alcohol, so it should not be surprising that it does very little to control consumption.
Aside from the sale of alcohol, liquor licenses run upwards of $100,000 or more each, depending upon where the license will be issued. Secondary money also enters the commonwealth in fines for drunk driving, reeducation, and court costs. Pennsylvania makes a substantial amount of money from the sale and distribution of alcohol and the punishment of those who over imbibe. So where are the controls?
A look at the PLCB website assures that little control is going on. It reads like a "Who’s Who" of new bars and restaurants. Perusing the minutes of several meetings, I counted no less than 20 new bars and restaurants that were granted the ability to sell alcohol, not including the multitudes of transfers. Alcohol is big business, and Pennsylvania has waded right in.
Who is controlling alcohol in Pennsylvania? Well, it certainly isn’t the commonwealth, because it’s bellied up to the bar and having a few cold ones while the citizens of the state suffer the effects.