The largest retail state liquor store in Pennsylvania opened Thursday – but not everyone is excited.
The expanded store, located on Penn Circle South in East Liberty, is a remodeled and refurbished version of the previous Fine Wines & Good Spirits Store.
At 17,674 square feet, it’s 35 percent larger than its predecessor.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) aimed to make the store environmentally responsible by using LED lighting and offering to sell reusable shopping bags made from 60 percent recycled materials.
But House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said the state needs to move towards privatization instead of refurbishing and building new liquor stores.
“It’s clear the private sector does it better,” Turzai said. “We don’t sell milk, we don’t do cigarettes, we don’t sell sodas, we really shouldn’t be in the business of selling liquor and wine.”
The House of Representatives passed a bill in March 2013 that would privatize liquor and wine by selling 1,200 new private store licenses to bars, restaurants and grocery stores.
However, another bill in the Senate that would loosen restrictions on beer, wine and spirit sales is at a standstill.
The new store has more than 5,700 wine and spirits products including an organic wine section for people who want to avoid pesticides, but Turzai said other states that have already privatized sell liquor that is cheaper and have even more variety, drawing Pennsylvanians elsewhere.
“We’re one of the most underserved states in the nation,” Turzai said. “And it’s not that people aren’t getting their wine and spirits, they’re just getting it from out of state. There are projections there’s as much as 30 percent of the sales to Pennsylvania residents are out of state.”
He said people want the convenience of being able to buy their alcohol from grocery and convenience stores.
“It’s just a conflict of interest for state government to be the same entity selling and marketing and advertising for liquor and wine sales while we’re supposed to be the organization and the entity that regulates, licenses and taxes,” Turzai said.