Is Pennsylvania going to privatize liquor?

Pennsylvania is seeing movement in the push for privatization — and it’s now or never, according to the former chairman of the state’s liquor control board.

“We have a governor that supports privatization, a minority leader leading the charge and a pro-business Senate,” said former PLCB chair Jonathan Newman, who now owns booze chain Newman Wine & Spirits in 10 other states. “We have one opportunity for privatization to happen where it’s failed under [former governors] Thornburgh and Ridge and if it doesn’t happen now, I don’t think it’s going to happen for at least another generation.”

Newman was at the Wine School in Fairmount yesterday with Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, to announce his support of Turzai’s privatization bill.

“Jonathan is probably the gold standard in terms of knowing how to bring quality products and services to the consumer while doing it in a responsible manner,” Turzai said. “Nobody has a more detailed understanding, both from public and private sector experience.”

The House Liquor Control Committee will hold public hearings on the bill in Harrisburg on Aug. 10 and in Hershey on Aug. 11. Turzai hopes to put the bill to a vote in early September.

“It’s a monumental challenge, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also timely because of budgetary constraints,” Newman said. “This is a resource where the state can generate revenue, lower taxes and increase the tax base by keeping Pennsylvania shoppers in Pennsylvania instead of turning them into bootleggers by forcing them to go out of state to buy liquor.”