Monday, December 14, 2009

So I Looked At The Bartender...

Pennsylvania. Literally, Penn's Woods. One of the original 13 colonies in America. Known as the Keystone State. Population: roughly 12,500,000. Home of Gettysburg, the Horseshoe Curve, the Drake Oil Well, and the City of Champions: Pittsburgh.

And home of the most archaic alcohol regulatory laws outside of the Islamic world and Utah. Ain't that like two fucking alien worlds, right?

So, here's the deal: You have to get different kinds of alcohol at different places. The only way to get a case of beer or keg in Pennsylvania is to go to a distributor. Can't get one at a bar or six-pack, unless you take a friend or make two trips into the building. Why? Because the biggest package of beer a bar/six-pack can sell is indeed a six-pack, and you're only allowed to carry two six-packs of alcohol out of a bar at a time, per person. If you want hard liquor to go, there's only one way to get it: At a State Store. State stores have the most atrocious hours - some are open six days a week in one town or another, yet some are open only on certain days. You can get wine at a state store, too, but nowadays wineries themselves have licensed outlets. But they can only sell wine, not hard liquor, and not beer. Alcohol cannot be sold on Sundays in Pennsylvania, unless that establishment is also an operating restaurant or has enough of its income come from food sales. Distributors, state stores, bars and six packs that don't offer food are all closed on Sunday, even 24 hour beer distributors. Despite having food, grocery and convenience stores are prohibited from selling alcohol, period.

Still with me? If you are, congratulations, because that is a summary of what amounts to some of the most absurd liquor control law systems in the world.

Now, from exit 120 (Clearfield) on Interstate 80, drive a little under two hours west to our neighbor, Ohio. Go to any grocery store, quick stop, whatever, any day of the week. Guess what? You can buy BEER. You can buy BOOZE. Bars are OPEN on SUNDAY. So are six packs and liquor stores - which aren't run by the government. And you know what else? There's no real difference in the frequency of alcohol-related problems. It's pretty much the same. No better, yet certainly no worse.

In other words, it's not godless chaos and rampant drunken anarchy. People still manage to go about their daily lives, remaining good, responsible people, despite being able to get themselves some sin-in-a-bottle on a whim.

So, why is Pennsylvania still living in a post-prohibition world? Two reasons. And you know what's funny? Our national Constitution says they should be separate entities: Church and State.

We'll start out with the State. Pennsylvania has a lockdown on any sort of alcohol sales, and they make quite a pretty penny off of it no matter how it's sold. The State Store system is inherently a legal monopoly - it is the ONLY place you can buy bottles of hard liquor, period. While I don't have any prices available for comparison (I don't feel like surfing Google at 5:30am, honestly), I assume that they're a bit inflated, as there's an 18% tax on it system- and state-wide. All other alcohol not sold in State Stores is taxed, too - heavily. In short, it's all about the income. And since Pennsylvanians love their booze, the money keeps rolling in, so they have no reason to change the current system in that respect.

And yet, we can't fix our budget problems. Amazing, isn't it. All that income from the Stalinist control of the booze industry, and yet Rendell and company can't pay the fucking bills. Astonishing.

The other reason is the Church. Long has the Church sought to control the lives of their followers in the name of God. Alcohol? Yeah, unless its sacramental wine, they'd rather you not drink it. Granted, quite a number of religions are more or less lax about the drink these days, some still seek to return to their halcyon days of prohibition, when you couldn't drink at all. Instead, they found a compromise: Alright, you can have your booze, but not on Sunday. Sunday is for the Magic Sky Pixie and his Zombie Offspring. Holy day. Not yours.

Well, the Church's influence has been further hampered, since restaurants and can serve booze on Sunday with a separate license. But they still bitch and moan and complain - and try to assert their false authority over humanity.

We're starting to come around, though. Sheetz, based in Altoona, PA, has been trying like hell to get the law amended to allow them to sell beer at certain stores. Petitions are popping up everywhere to have the Communist laws repealed, or at least relaxed. Will it happen? I once sent a note on Twitter to John Scalzi, who was trying to think of new novel ideas. I'd mentioned a distant future (23something, I think) where Pennsylvania had finally allowed normal liquor sales. His reply?

Pretty much "Like that will ever happen."

Well, maybe we can prove Scalzi wrong, eh?

No comments:

Post a Comment