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Sales, costs rise for state-run liquor stores

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A customer makes a purchase at the Fine Wine & Good Spirits store in Lemyone's West Shore Plaza shopping center.
A customer makes a purchase at the Fine Wine & Good Spirits store in Lemyone's West Shore Plaza shopping center. - (Photo / )

Changes to state liquor laws have translated into higher sales - but also higher costs - for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

The PLCB this week said sales at its more than 600 state-owned stores surpassed $2.4 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year, up from about $2.3 billion the previous year. 

The increase was driven, in part, by expanded Sunday and holiday hours, allowed under Act 39 liquor-law changes in 2016.

But longer hours drove operating costs higher. The PLCB said salary and wages increased by $7.5 million last year because of higher pay rates and more overtime paid to workers for the additional store hours.

The PLCB had been operating 188 stores from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. As of June 30, 2017, more stores were open for even more hours on Sundays: 330 stores operated from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The agency pulled in additional revenue from license fees, spurred largely by proceeds from auctioning off expired restaurant liquor licenses, but that was offset by higher operating expenses.

In addition to higher personnel costs to cover longer store hours, non-payroll expenses increased due mainly to higher store rents, as well as store relocations and renovations, as well as new stores.

The agency reported net income of $104.9 million in 2016-17, up 1 percent from the prior year.

Top stores

Four Central Pennsylvania locations were among the 30 busiest state-run liquor stores last year, according to PLCB sales figures. And each reported an increase from 2015-16.

The liquor store in the West Shore Plaza in Lemoyne led the way locally with $12.8 million in sales for the 2016-17 fiscal year., up from about $12.5 million the previous year. This year's haul made the store No. 16 in the commonwealth.

The PLCB said the 5070 Jonestown Road store in Lower Paxton Township was No. 25 with $11.1 million in wine and spirit sales last year, up from about $11 million the prior year. The Dauphin County store was followed by the store at 1190 Dillerville Road in Lancaster, which finished with $11 million in sales. That was up from about $10.1 million.

And the York Marketplace store at 2547 E. Market St. in Springettsbury Township was No. 28 with $10.8 million in sales, up from $10.3 million.

By county, Lancaster County stores were eighth in the state with $69.3 million in wine and spirit sales last year. That was up 3.1 percent from 2015-16.

York, Dauphin and Cumberland counties were also in the top 15.

York County's state liquor stores finished with $63.2 million in sales, good for No. 10 in Pennsylvania, while Dauphin County was No. 13 with $51.2 million in sales. Cumberland County, by comparison, was No. 15 with $48.2 million in sales.

Allegheny County was No. 1 in Pennsylvania with $300.6 million, followed by Philadelphia County with $249 million.

Wholesale wine

Another major change under Act 39 is the new ability of supermarkets and convenience stores to sell wine, not just beer. The PLCB said 469 so-called wine expanded permits were issued to groceries and convenience stores, as well as bottle shops, restaurants and hotels, during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The PLCB does not track how much wine those permit holders sell. However, it does track what it moves through its wholesale operation to permit holders.

Last year, sales to wine expanded permit holders totaled more than $60 million, with grocery stores purchasing slightly more than $46 million.

The PLCB created an Office of Wholesale Operations to work directly with larger-volume wine buyers. For the 245 active grocery and convenience store locations it served last year, the average weekly order totaled more than $1.1 million and 11,000 cases of wine, according to the PLCB.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal.

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