Competition - It's Hard!

Looks like Gov. Corbett is going to give Pennsylvania another shot at joining the free world, at least in the realm of alcohol. I'm still looking through the details of what's been announced, but it sounds pretty good so far. Anything to privatize the PLCB out of the liquor-sales business is a step in the right direction.

Not everyone agrees, however...
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Rich Rosella, whose Allegheny 6 Pack and Doghouse in Cheswick sells sandwiches and six-packs, said expanding the number of venues where customers can buy beer would make his license "pretty much worthless."

"If you issue 'X' amount of licenses, you're not going to sell that much more beer," Rosella said. "There's only so many beer drinkers in the state, and all you're going to do is water down the business of the places that have been selling it."

Distributors also worry that few independent business owners will be able to compete against chain stores that can offer lower prices and longer hours.

"We don't want to be legislated out of business," said Vince Altieri, owner of Jeannette Distributing.

Rosella argues that convenience stores, such as the Sheetz located near his business, are at a competitive advantage by staying open for 24 hours and offering products from gasoline to milk to tobacco.

“If Sheetz wants to put me out of business, they can, because they can sell beer at cost,” Rosella said. “There's absolutely no way I can compete.”
...

Source: Trib Live - Beer sellers say governor’s proposal to privatize wine, liquor sales opens new can of worries

Sorry, Vince, but if your business model depends on an artificial, government-created environment, then you're being legislated into business - not the other way around. Corbett's plan will just let the normal competitive market signal where licenses should be allocated.

Quote of the Day - Politician Actually Makes Sense Edition

"I sometimes think we (legislators) should take a year off from writing new laws and go back over the books and get rid of laws that don't make sense anymore."
PA State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, while discussing PA's moronic fireworks laws

Worth a Taste: Penn Brewery - Bacon Brew Dog

Just had a fantastic lunch at Penn Brewery, a local German brew pub. I've been there several times over the last ten years and it's always had good German food. They brew their own beer too and most of them are fantastic. But today's meal, despite not including an excellent beer, was extremely good. I had their Bacon Brew Dog. It's menu description is:
A 10 inch Silver Star frankfurter stuffed with fresh jalapenos, wrapped in three pieces of bacon, then deep fried and topped with shredded cheddar jack cheese, BBQ sauce and vinegar slaw in a hot dog bun.
Hot damn is it all that and more! The jalapenos were very fresh and pretty hot, the bacon was very crispy, and the BBQ sauce and slaw paired well together. The only thing I would have changed is to put it on a more substantial bun - this one started falling apart when confronted with so much tasty goodness.

Cheers to Penn Brewery - that was a tasty dog!

Occupy Pittsburgh: Finally Jumped the Shark

It's official. The Occupy Pittsburgh movement has jumped the shark. According to today's Post-Gazette, Occupy Pittsburgh vows to seize and rename Mellon Green.
Organizers of the Occupy Pittsburgh tent encampment said today they are "seizing" the BNY Mellon's privately owned park in Downtown, will rename it "People's Park," and will serve BNY Mellon with an eviction notice Monday.
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Ken Miller, 38, of the North Side, said he expects occupiers will win their fight in court
...

So, BNY Mellon gives the Occupy Pittsburgh permission to use the privately owned park, Mellon Green, as long as the protesters weren't disruptive and didn't damage the park. After several months of "occupation," the permission has been rescinded and the protesters were told to leave by noon today. And, like the spoiled brats they appear to be, they're refusing to leave and plan on filing an eviction notice against BNY Mellon? The inmates truly are running the asylum.

I've watched the Occupy "movement" grow from its infancy and chuckled as it's continued to make a mockery of itself. I even agree (to some extent) with one of the messages they speak about: I would love to see corporations lose the massive influence they have in Washington. We differ in that the Occupy movement doesn't mind lobbying in general, they just want a different group of people doing it. I, on the other hand, want all the parasites out of Washington - corporate and union, private and public.

But seriously, evicting a company from their own property? I'll start making the popcorn.

Senator Casey (D - Moronic)

Senator wants accounting from US Airways on Philly fares
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has sent a letter to US Airways objecting to the upcoming increase in the cost of flights from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.

The Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that when Southwest Airlines drops its flights between the two cities next month, the price for a US Airways round-trip ticket will increase from $118 plus taxes to $698 plus taxes. US Airways would be the only airline operating direct flights between the cities.
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Mr. Casey asked the airline to provide him with regular updates on the impact the increase would have on Pennsylvania travelers.
Maybe US Airways has been pricing flights way below cost just to stay competitive with Southwest. Maybe now US Airways is just raising rates to finally cover the cost of carrying passengers from Pittsburgh to Philly. Maybe it's just the opposite and US Airways sees an opportunity to screw over its potential customers and charge them way more than they need to charge. I really don't care! They're able to do so in a free market and they'll have to suffer the consequences, whether they deserve them or not.

I'm really not sure how in the hell this is any of Senator Casey's business. And I'm not really sure where he thinks he has the authority to "request regular updates."

If only Senator Casey was as concerned with what the government's policies are doing to drive up the unavoidable costs of living - food, gas, energy - as he is with how much an airline is charging someone to avoid a simple five hour drive.

More Liquor Law Stupidity

Bill Toland has an article in the Post-Gazette on the Pittsburgh Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival. One of the vendors will be the brand new Wigle Whiskey which is just about to open in the Strip District here in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, they won't be able to actually let people sample their whiskey. Why?
Wigle Whiskey -- being produced in the Strip District, in Pittsburgh's first whiskey distillery since the Prohibition era -- will not be among the spirits sampled. Though the festival had advertised Wigle's presence in press releases, Wigle won't be pouring tomorrow, because the federal government has not approved Wigle's bottle labels.
Got that? We're not allowed to actually try this local whiskey because at least one federal agency is required to approve the bottle labels.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!

In addition to Wigle, an Indian whiskey (Amrut, out of Bangalore) is now available in Pennsylvania but, since it's not a regularly stocked item, you have to special order it. And special orders are done by the case!
Amrut brands are now available in Pennsylvania, but only by special-order -- meaning that if you want to try a bottle, you have to buy six of them, because the PLCB doesn't maintain an Amrut inventory.

So, to recap, if you want to take this highly-rated whiskey for a test drive, instead of buying one bottle of Fusion for $67, you have to buy six, for $400.
I have mentioned this before regarding Evan Williams 1783 bourbon and the PLCB is still a bloated train-wreck of government stupidity. It's time to privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania.

It's about right and wrong

I'm a big fan of Tom Selleck's character in the Jesse Stone movies on CBS. There was one line in particular that has always stuck with me:
Most people don't have trouble seeing what's right and wrong. Doing it is sometimes complicated, but knowing what's right isn't so hard.

- Jesse Stone, Night Passage

That short statement really has saved my butt a time or two as I've been caught with a tough decision where the right course of action was the hard one. It really sums up everything that is wrong with the current Penn State travesty.
It's unfortunate. We preach, preach, preach and they stepped out of line. They deserve what they're going to get. Whatever that's going to be, I don't know. My feeling on all of this is they have a responsibility to the program, they have a responsibility to themselves, to their family.

Source: Paterno suspends players for Saturday's game vs. Oregon State - espn.com
That was Joe Paterno, in 2008, when several players were found in possession of marijuana. Another player, Willie Harriott, was kicked off the team and it is believed to be due to drunk driving charges.

Neither of those issues hold a candle to what was perpetrated by Sandusky, "reported" by McQueary, and all but ignored by Paterno and other Penn State administrators and employees.

I'm a Penn State graduate and I have a lot of fond memories of the school. Despite some of the professors best efforts, I think I got a pretty solid education there. I met my wife there. My children look forward to visiting the campus and, at two years and four years old, both love to chant "WE ARE ... PENN STATE!"

So it is with a bit of sadness, but no regret, that I agree that Joe Paterno should step down from his position as head coach.

And, as Billy Beck points out, the real question is "Why didn't Mike McQueary just punch Jerry Sandusky's lights out, on the spot?"

PLCB: Pot, meet kettle

So the debate about kicking the state government out of the business of selling alcohol is pretty heated here in Pennsylvania. Of course, the union (UFCW Local 1776) is lobbying very strongly against privatization and one of their arguments is that, since there is no profit incentive, the government employees are better at preventing sales to minors and intoxicated people.
A 39-year-old Liquor Control Board enforcement officer was charged with driving under the influence after a crash in downtown Pittsburgh late Thursday night.

Tyrribea Flood was drunk when she crashed a state vehicle at the intersection of Ninth and Penn avenues shortly before midnight, according to Channel 11 News reporter Lori Houy.
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Source: WPXI - Liquor Control Board Officer Charged With DUI After Downtown Crash

Right. Maybe Ms. Flood was just doing work-related research. So what exactly makes the PLCB a better watchdog again?

I'll take 'Best way to run a business' for $200, Alex

In Thursday's Post-Gazette: Liquor store privatization hits major roadblock
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Talking to reporters this afternoon, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati was critical of the current plan from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai to auction off licenses for the stores.

Mr. Scarnati, of Jefferson, questioned whether the state would be getting the most profit possible in that sale, given what he sees as constraints on the profitability of those stores.

"I don't think that we have allowed the Liquor Control Board to run like a business," he said. "We're the ones with the handcuffs on them, and then we're out there saying, 'Well, this is an archaic, terrible system and doesn't work.' Well, take the handcuffs off of them, get the bottom line better, and you'll get a better price."

He suggested allowing those stores more flexibility in pricing, based on the product and geography, as initial reforms.
...
I'm going to suggest, Mr. Scarnati, that the best way to let it run like a business is to let it be run BY a business. Let's ignore, for a minute, the fact that the state government should not even BE in the liquor store business. Does anyone think it's a bad idea to have the same Board that is tasked with enforcing liquor laws and reducing liquor consumption also be the Board that is tasked with running alcohol sales like a business?

Pennsylvania has some of the most backward and archaic laws regarding alcohol out of any of the states in the country. Let's work on getting the government out of the sales business once and for all.

PLCB vs Turzai/Corbett - Round 1

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: That's the spirit! Proposal would get state out of the liquor business

Looks like Pennsylvania just may get a shot at kicking the bloated PLCB dinosaur to the curb! We've tried several times in the past, but the unions were always too strong. This time, however, Republicans have an advantage: a 19 vote edge in the house, a 10 vote edge in the Senate, and a Republican Governor who has said he favors privatizing the PLCB.

Details of Rep. Mike Turzai's bill, HB 11, include auctioning off 750 licenses for large retailers and 500 licenses for small retailers. Beer distributors would also be eligible to bid on the licenses which might be the best part - being able to buy beer, wine, and liquor all in the same store! No more driving all over the place to jump through the archaic hoops the PLCB requires.

The Post-Gazette article focuses on the financial aspect - privatizing the PLCB would likely bring in a significant amount of money up front via the license auctions and would likely continue to bring in a solid stream of tax revenue. This is great news! They also discuss the added convenience to the customers and how this would remove the incentive for people who live near the state border to drive to neighboring states to purchase alcohol. Another great reason to disband the PLCB monopoly.

They overlook the biggest reason I'm in favor of this bill: It's not the government's DAMN JOB! There is no good reason for the state government to be in charge of the sale of liquor - that's rightly the domain of the private market. I'd be in favor of privatizing the PLCB even if there was a loss in revenue to the state. That would just mean the PA residents would be keeping more of their own money and spending less in taxes.

Cheers to Mr. Turzai for introducing this bill and I urge all of our Representatives and Senators, as well as Governor Corbett, to support House Bill 11.