an open letter to my state representative

Rep. Samuelson:

I realize that this is in some ways a trivial concern, but it’s been causing me a great deal of consternation in the past few weeks. I’m a Bethlehemite, born and raised, and I love Pennsylvania. The only thing about the state that has ever driven me to shake my fist Harrisburgwards is the PLCB. Lately, it’s been driving me to not drink.

I’d like to order a particular brand of rye whiskey from the state store, but I was told that I’d have to order a case. Researching the PA Liquor Code, I found that, “If a person desires to purchase a class, variety or brand of liquor or alcohol not currently available from the board, he or she may place a special order for such item so long as the order is for two or more bottles.” That’s section 3-305(a).

I sent an email to the PLCB asking whether, perhaps, the clerk was just confused. The answer I got was that, “Even though it states 2 bottles our distributors are allowed to set minimums from 1-12 bottles.” (email from Jennifer Smith, Feb 25, 2008)

This seems like a dodge: the distributor sells to the PLCB, not to me. The PLCB seems to have an obligation to purchase the case and break it so that my order for two bottles be filled. It seems like everyone wants to avoid doing this, though, even though the rye I’d like is only $12 per bottle, meaning that the state store would be stuck with only $120 worth of good whiskey to resell – probably with little difficulty, since Rittenhouse Rye (originally a product of Pennsylvania!) is quite well-reviewed and popular.

I am sick of the conventional wisdom that I should go to New Jersey and smuggle it back. The PLCB is a government monopoly, with no competition allowed by force of law. With that in mind, it seems to me that it should be very scrupulous about following the laws that have created it. It would be easy for me to go to New Jersey, because I live in Bethlehem, although it’s still an unfair and unreasonable demand. If I lived in Harrisburg, it would be even more maddening.

I would like to follow the laws of the Commonwealth and buy my liquor from the PLCB as required, but only if it will sell to me in the manner required of it! Please let me know what I have to do to get fair treatment by the PLCB.

Thank you very much for your time and efforts on my behalf in this and other matters.


Ricardo J.B. Signes

Written on February 25, 2008
🏷 booze
🏷 pennsylvania
🏷 rant