Report gives rare glimpse inside LCB
After a year of intense debate about the future and, at times, the transparency of the state Liquor Control Board, the agency on Tuesday released a rare detailed report.
It's the first time in years that the LCB has put out an annual report, and it's unclear exactly when the last report was put out, according to top LCB officials.
The 56 pages contain explanations about how departments operate and provide sales figures, marketing efforts, regulatory issues, employee demographics and financial statements.
“I don't know whether this answers all of (the questions), but at least it's a beginning of what the LCB does under its current format,” LCB Chairman Joseph “Skip” Brion said. “There was no push from anyone to try to get this done. ... This is a state agency; we should be as transparent as possible.”
It was after Brion testified before state House and Senate committees for budget and privatization hearings that he said he realized not everyone understood how the LCB works. He sees the annual report as a “first draft” that could be expanded or improved.
While the LCB has touted its sales figures and the state programs and agencies that are funded by that revenue, areas such as advertising have rarely been laid out publicly in detail.
Some insight came through a Tribune-Review analysis that found the LCB spent more than $474,600 to place ads for its highly controversial in-house brands, or about 10 percent of its marketing budget last year.
The in-house brands of wine and spirits drew fire from critics who said it was wrong for the public agency, which controls sales of liquor in the state, to compete with the private-sector companies that it regulates.
The in-house brands, including the flagship brand Tableleaf, and the money spent to advertise the products, received no mention in the report.
“I don't know that I would suggest curbing (advertising in-house labels). ... I would advertise other brands we have in our stores, as well,” Brion said.
“I have always, since I've been here, questioned some of the advertising issues,” said Brion, who was named to the board by Gov. Tom Corbett and took his seat in October 2011. “I understand we're a monopoly and we sell alcohol to the citizens of ... Pennsylvania in that monopoly format.”
The report shows the agency bought 20,594 commercials on 45 radio stations as well as 6,181 commercials on 55 TV stations and ran print ads in 12 newspapers statewide. On social media, the LCB reached an estimated 13.7 million people on Twitter, 112,600 people on Facebook and logged more than 4.5 million clicks on its retail website, finewineandgoodspirits.com from July 2012 to June 2013.
One full-color newspaper insert in April that advertised a selection of wines boosted the dollars spent on those wines by nearly 30 percent that week, the report states.
The total spent on advertising isn't included in the report, but spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said ad spending totaled about $5.8 million last year, up from about $4.7 million in 2011-12.
Each round of free-standing newspaper inserts costs about $47,100 to produce and buy the ad space, she said.
Even so, Brion said he's come to appreciate the value in driving customers into state stores or getting them to purchase a second or third bottle. He said he'd like to see the agency curb some of its advertising habits, such as buying billboard space on Interstate 95 near Philadelphia, when those leases run out.
“Sharing information is always a good thing,” said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, who has pushed legislation to privatize alcohol sales.
“It's good they are back on track to being more open, but regardless, the state should not be in the business of selling fine wine or good spirits,” Miskin said.
Critics say the LCB, which owns and operates 602 liquor stores in Pennsylvania, doesn't need to advertise and that it contradicts its function as the regulator of alcohol by promoting it.
Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Kari Andren to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Cochranton farm specializes in growing out-of-season vegetables
- As House looks to dismantle state stores, hybrid system might be option
- ‘Tipping point’ near for Pa. government, conservative expert predicts at Freedom Forum
- Wolf touts in-home care for seniors
- Walking gets increasingly deadly for pedestrians in Pa.
- Pa. Senate approves ‘paycheck protection’ constitutional amendment
- Liquor privatization bill clears Pennsylvania House panel
- 242 Pennsylvania workers not state residents