State liquor sell-off to be ‘top priority’

Gov.-elect Tom Corbett hasn’t taken over the governor’s mansion yet, but he already has a battle on his hands as he tries to privatize the state’s liquor sales — something two of his predecessors tried but failed to do.

Already in favor of the move, Corbett now says there now is the political will to sell off the state’s 620 liquor stores — some estimate it would reap $2 billion in revenue — with the state’s massive budget deficit around $5 billion and Republicans in charge of both chambers of the Legislature.

“We’ve never had the dire economic circumstances that we’re facing,” said Corbett spokesman Kevin Feeley, noting that the issue is a top priority. “He believes that there will be the political will to get it done. Whether it’s done in first 100 days remains to be seen.”

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, which represents a majority of state Liquor Control Board workers, has been the most vocal opponent to privatization. They say they are ready to rally against Corbett’s attempt.

“We won’t hesitate to do that if it’s necessary. We’ve been through that before,” said Local 1776 communications director William Epstein.

The specifics on whether the 620 stores would be sold or auctioned and how the money would be used has yet to be decided, Feeley said. A proposal from new House Majority Mike Turzai is expected to be reintroduced at the start of the next session, Feeley added.

More hip, less antiquated

Recent appearances by hip-hop artists Snoop Dogg and Ludacris to boast their own brands of spirits, along with innovations like the wine kiosk, are part of the state Liquor Control Board’s attempt to better connect with consumers.

“Our wine kiosk program is an attempt to provide convenience for customers who go in a supermarket and want to go home with a bottle of wine for dinner,” PLCB chairman P.J. Stapleton said.