Thursday, December 18, 2014

No Wine for You!

State wine kiosks, an idea whose time never really came, are done as the LCB pulls the plug on a program more suspect than useful.

No Wine for You!

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: Well, boss, you're gonna have to wait in line at the checkout counter of your local State Store to get your daily bottle of beaujolais.

BE: What! No more just walking into a Giant Foods or a Wegmans and up to that friendly 10-foot machine, showing my ID and blowing into that breath thing?

JB: That's right, the LCB pulled the plug on all of its wine kiosks, a.k.a. Mr. Winos, after a little more than a year of fun-filled service to the state's wine-sipping public.

BE: I never sip.

JB: The machines, also known as ABFS (A Bad Idea from the Start) jammed-up or otherwise failed for the last time. The final 21 vending machines are vending no more.

BE: Another failure of our state-run booze system.

JB: Not according to LCB boss Joe Conti. He denies it was a failure. He says, "It didn't end up successful."

BE: I love government talk.

JB: Well, then you'll love the chatter from House GOP Leader Rep. Mike Turzai, the prime pusher for privatizing booze. He's always hated the kiosks, says they were "a joke from the very beginning" and a "cockamamie program."

BE: Privatize! Privatize!

JB: Turzai also recounts how the kiosks came to be: proposed in `08 by only one company, Simple Brands, with political ties to then-Gov. Rendell; opposed internally by LCB staff; adopted by the politically appointed LCB board anyway.

BE: Ah, Pennsylvania.

JB: Yep. Two of the investors in Simple Brands, Rendell pals Ira Lubert and Herb Vederman, gave Ed's campaigns a total of $457,256.

BE: It's better to give than receive.

JB: And I feel certain they never expected anything in return.

BE: Well, at least the issue's going away so we can't WHINE about it anymore.

JB: Not so fast, oh fan of the grape. There's legal action to be sorted out. Simple Brands wants $81 million in damages for what it calls the LCB's failure to live up to its contract and the LCB wants $1 million from Simple Brands for expenses incurred in setting up the machines.

BE: Oh, I'm sure they'll settled all that amicably without any lawyers or lawsuits or additional costs to the taxpayers.

JB: I'll drink to that. Grrr. Hic.




John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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