Corbett pushes liquor privatization in Philadelphia

January 31, 2013 3:06:13 PM PST
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was in Center City Philadelphia Thursday pushing his plan to privatize liquor sales.

The proposal would close 600 state stores and create a major shakeup of how and where you can buy beer, wine and liquor.

But there are many unanswered questions.

The governor made the point that sometimes Pennsylvanians leave the state to buy alcohol.

"They get in their cars. They travel across those bridges, or travel 95 into Delaware or over into New Jersey to buy their alcohol," he said.

Corbett says shoppers want convenience. But many told us cheaper prices drive their quest.

So will privatization mean cheaper prices in Pennsylvania? In a big city with lots of competition, maybe. In towns with few stores, maybe not.

"I think it's going to depend on where they are," said Corbett. "I think it's going to depend on exactly what they're looking for, because now we're on a free market system."

Vince Gorman of Flourtown Beverage is a small businessman. He is intrigued by the idea of bidding on a liquor license.

But he said he worries the auction process will be skewed by big national chains and he will be "pushed out by a big corporation and not get a chance to get a spirit license."

Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley is promising safeguards to protect mom-and-pop stores from the big guys.

"No one successful applicant can own more than 5 percent of the total of the 1200 licenses that are available," said Cawley.

As for worries about increased social problems from 5000 drugstores, grocery stores and convenience stores that will be allowed to sell alcohol, Corbett had this to say:

"People say they're going to be something on every street corner. There is not. The market won't allow that to happen. You've seen we're going to put money into alcoholism treatment and so forth, and we're also going to put it into law enforcement."

Perhaps the biggest critic of the plan is the union leader of the state stores clerks, Wendell Young IV. He has reportedly challenged the governor to a series of town hall meetings to debate the issue.

The governor was asked about that Thursday. He said he didn't know of the challenge. He didn't rule it out, but he didn't rule it in, either.