There’s quirks in Pennsylvania’s new liquor laws—and it's because of lobbyists

Under the new statutes, we now have Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores, with flexible hours and pricing.

EXCITED ABOUT new state statutes on wine and spirits in Penn's Woods?

I know I am. We're starting to shed our reputation as the Prohibition State.

We no longer have bland, boring State Stores. Now they're Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores.

They're getting new flexible hours and pricing, making it easier for you to get your drink on.

And these changes and others, given our political season, come none too soon.

It's all thanks to your Rip Van Winkle Legislature, which, after eight decades, awoke to realize folks like to drink, and buying booze when you choose falls for many under their constitutional right to their pursuit of happiness.

Ah, but the new law (Act 39) has quirks that seem potentially problematic. Like one that could make airports a lot more exciting.

It says you can start drinking in airports at 5 a.m. and (if, say, experiencing extended flight delays) continue to do so until 2 a.m.

Talk about layover La-La Land!

And airports now can sell liquor "by the glass, open bottle or other container - for consumption anywhere within the airport terminal."

Not to be alarmist, but I picture some po'ed frequent flier delayed and on stand-by, racing gate to gate with an open bottle of Jack that he or she's been tugging on while calling out ever-higher prices to purchase a ticket to anywhere.

Or what if a distraught traveler, familiar with that "other container" language, fills an airport trashcan with Tanqueray and starts up games of bobbing for olives?

Your air-travel experience, already such a joy, might be further impaired.

I sought answers on the need for these provisions.

Liquor Control Board press person Elizabeth Brassell tells me, "There's a lot in Act 39 that we didn't know was coming . . . I can't speak to the 'why.' Our administrative role is carrying out the law."

Turns out the "why" is because airports want more hours to sell hooch and want to sell it at gates ... say at kiosks, not just at restaurants.

In other words, the "why" is airport lobbyists and money.

Speaking of money, another quirk is a $1 million fee for new casino licenses to allow booze sales 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a.k.a. all the freakin' time.

Just what serious gamblers and gaming-floor workers dream of: Around-the-clock drunks throwing dice at blackjack tables.

Interestingly, renewal fees for the first four years are $1 million per.

Also, interestingly, none of the state's 12 casinos has applied for one of these high-priced rights to serve constant cocktails.

A suspicious person might suggest this "revenue" was padded in to make the law seem more profitable than it is. Why? Because once a revenue source is in law, the money can be spent whether it actually comes in or not.

(Just like in your house, right?)

The LCB offers no comment. Legislative insiders bob and weave when asked.

Another change clarifies language allowing beer-licensed "convenience stores" that also have gas pumps to sell beer to go.

Yep, fill 'er up, buy a six-pack, drive away. What could possibly go wrong?

But most new changes make sense.

Stores will be open longer and more often, including Sundays and some holidays; as of Sept. 4, half the 600 stores will be open Sundays with expanded hours, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Consumers also can get wine in eligible grocery stores or to-go from about 11,000 restaurants and hotels or shipped to home from wineries.

And if change makes you feel lucky, half the stores soon will sell lottery tickets.

Hey, if you win, you can head to the airport to celebrate.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer