State liquor reforms in 2016 set table for 2017

Pennsylvania consumers enjoyed easier access to alcohol this year thanks to the passage of last year’s Act 39 liquor law reforms. The reforms loosened longstanding restrictions on alcohol sales and led to a proliferation of small brewers and distillers in Central Pennsylvania.

Among other changes, the law allowed supermarkets and convenience-store chains to sell takeout wine on top of to-go beer they were already selling.

As a result, large chains have been converting liquor licenses or buying new licenses to expand their drinks menu. Many of the licenses have been purchased through a statewide auction system for expired restaurant liquor licenses, which was created by Act 39.

Cumberland County-based Giant Food Stores and its sister chain Martin’s Food Market are now selling beer and wine at more than 50 stores in Pennsylvania.

York County-based Rutter’s Farm Stores has opened 16 “Beer Caves” in its stores since the fall of 2016, citing Act 39 as the driving force. Rutter’s has another 12 beer caves in the works.

The chain’s walk-in beer caves span eight counties. Rutter’s was the first convenience store to to sell beer in five of those counties.

Act 39 also gave Pennsylvania beer, wine and spirit makers the ability to sell other alcoholic products for on-site consumption, which has helped spur more craft producers, including cider makers and spirit makers.

Lawmakers chased Act 39 with Act 166, which granted beer distributors flexibility to sell six-packs, four-packs, singles for mix-a-six and larger bottles of rare or unusual beers. Distributors had been limited to selling cases and 12-packs.

The Act 166 changes, which took effect in early 2017, seem to be paying off for beer distributors, according to this recent story by the Business Journal.

Other craft headlines

Here are some other 2017 stories about craft alcohol growth in Central Pennsylvania:

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