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ALCOHOL OUTLOOK: For existing licensees, value is a concern

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The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage Association shares concerns with the commonwealth's beer distributors that proposed state alcohol sales reforms could affect the value of licenses held by its members, Executive Director Amy Christie said.

But the association, which also has gone by the Pennsylvania Tavern Association, does not have an official position on the issue and will be part of negotiations on whatever shape a final law change might take, she said.

The association wants to make sure undue harm does not come to its members, Christie said.

The organization represents businesses such as bars and restaurants that have licenses to sell alcohol to consumers, she said.

They range from bottle shops to nightclubs and ski resorts, Christie said, but what they have in common is that they have invested significantly in their given licenses.

The prospects of the creation of new licenses and categories for sales in the commonwealth could diminish what they are worth, she said.

"When you are talking about $300,000 invested in a piece of paper, that's a major investment no matter what business you're in," Christie said.

Under the governor's proposal, the number of these licenses would not become unlimited; the same is true with beer distributor licenses, said Eric Shirk, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett.

New outlets for alcohol would come by way of new types of licenses — without a limit for the number available — for big-box retailers, grocers, convenience stores and pharmacies.

There also would be 1,200 licenses for private companies to retail liquor and wine in lieu of state-owned wine and spirit stores.

Danette Small-Shultz, co-owner of Tailgaters Grille & Drafthouse in York County, said the value of retail alcohol sales licenses is one of the issues she sees from the working proposal.

Another is that many bars are increasingly dependent on six-pack customers to help bolster sales, Small-Shultz said. People who are worried about stricter DUI rules drink more at home, she said.

Tailgaters watched the take-out sales grow at its business before deciding to remodel and turn part of its dining room space into a dedicated six-pack shop, which opened in fall 2012, Small-Shultz said.

It's precisely these sales that will be eaten into by grocery stores, convenience stores and others selling beer, she said. Smaller bars might do an even bigger percentage of business in six-packs and also might lack the capital or space needed to better compete, Small-Shultz said.

"Not that we did, but we had to come up with it," she said.

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