HARRISBURG, Pa. --A new law will soon give Pennsylvania consumers many more options about where to purchase their favorite varieties of wine.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf approved legislation Wednesday allowing wine sales in grocery stores and making other changes to how alcohol is sold in a state long criticized for maintaining Depression-era restrictions on booze.
The governor said "truly historic" changes will help consumers and generate new revenue for the state.
"I have every confidence that this is a good thing for Pennsylvania," Wolf said, flanked by lawmakers as he signed the bill in his Capitol offices a day after it passed the House with bipartisan support.
The new law lets licensed groceries and restaurants sell up to four bottles of takeout wine per customer, and supporters say consumers could see bottles on sale in stores sometime this fall.
The measure also formalizes the sale of beer at convenience stores, something that has already begun as a result of court cases.
In other changes, state stores will have more flexibility about hours and pricing, and consumers can have wine shipped directly to them from private wine wholesalers.
About 14,000 holders of takeout beer licenses will be permitted to sell up to four bottles of wine to a customer. Takeout wine sales can expand to licensed restaurants, bars, hotels, supermarkets and delis.
Unions, including the one that represents state liquor store workers, have said the measure will undermine the finances of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and lead to job losses. They are skeptical of claims it will generate about $150 million for the state treasury in the first year.
Wolf said he was uncertain how much revenue the law will bring in but predicted it will create demand for workers at the stores and for businesses that will distribute wine to the new retail outlets.
Hard liquor is not affected, and officials have said there are no plans to close any of the roughly 600 state-owned liquor stores.
The liquor board said the massive bill was being reviewed, and promised to quickly set up new licensing procedures. It also will determine which of its stores will sell lottery tickets and expand Sunday hours, both provisions of the legislation.
State stores will get more latitude about which products to stock. Casinos will be able to sell booze 24 hours a day. The law takes effect in August.