WILKES-BARRE – Surrounded by cases of Coors, Dos Equis and other beer brands inside Beer Super, state Sen. John Yudichak spoke on Friday about how the governor's plan to privatize the state's wine and spirits industry would hurt beer distributors.
Owner David Shipula stood next to him, listening intently.
The Shipula family has been in the beer distribution business for 63 years, and many of those years have been spent urging the state to modernize its antiquated alcohol laws. Instead of modernizing, however, Yudichak and Shipula believe this privatization plan goes too far and will hurt some of the businesses that Gov. Tom Corbett says the plan is intended to help.
Beer distributors will continue to be able to sell cases of beer under Corbett's plan introduced Wednesday. Also, for an additional fee of more than $100,000, they can apply to sell six-packs and bottles of wine.
Those sorts of adjustments are things distributors have been seeking for years.
But the market will get more competitive because big-box retailers, drug stores, grocery stores and even restaurants will be able to sell take-out beer. Stores such as Walmart, Kmart and Target would be able to apply for a license to sell cases of beer and up to six bottles of wine.
For years, beer distributors have been operating with both hands tied behind their back, said Yudichak. Now (Corbett's) saying he'll untie one hand, but you've got to fight with an octopus.
The Republican governor said it's clear to him that a plan like his is what consumers and most businesses want.
But Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, believes Corbett is only half right. He believes consumers and businesses do want change but not the drastic overhaul the governor is proposing.
There's no doubt consumers and voters want the Pennsylvania liquor system modernized, Yudichak said.
The Legislature has discussed the matter and there are bills out there that would do this, he said, while preserving the state liquor system as well as enhancing choice and convenience for customers and license holders.
And that means helping, not hindering, beer distributors such as Shipula.
By going the route the governor has proposed, Yudichak said, hundreds of small, mom-and-pop distributorships that have existed for decades would be forced out of business because of competition from national or regional chains with deep pockets.
Corbett, however, said he believes distributors will benefit by being able to pay a fee for the right to sell six-packs and wine.
Shipula said he hopes Corbett is right, but there's nothing that's been shown or told to me that shows me it adds up.