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Editorials

Retail-price cash grab: The 'consumer-last' Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

| Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, 11:00 a.m.
A customer at Fine Wine & Good Spirits in Youngwood. (Trib photo)
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
A customer at Fine Wine & Good Spirits in Youngwood. (Trib photo)

Alcohol-industry critics were right when they predicted last fall that a new state law granting flexibility to negotiate lower prices from suppliers would result in a “cash grab” by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. The PLCB now says it's using this authority to raise , not lower, retail prices on 422 items — which strengthens the argument for its demise.

The archaic state liquor monopoly threatened to hike retail prices if suppliers didn't knuckle under. Targeting 496 products, its strong-arm tactics succeeded on only 74. Thus, this supposedly more “convenient” PLCB will raise per-bottle prices by $1 on 393 items, and by $2 to — brace yourself — $100 on 29 others, according to PennLive. And, adding insult to this injury, it refused to specify which items' prices will rise.

A spokeswoman said “suppliers … view cost and price adjustment information as proprietary.” They surely do when market competition's involved — but alas, that doesn't exist in Pennsylvania's wine-and-spirits market.

And essentially blaming suppliers for the PLCB's refusal to detail what's clearly part of a public agency's public business is disingenuous at best. But what else to expect from the “consumer- last ” PLCB?

Its secretive, self-serving, take-it-or-leave-it dealings with suppliers mirror its dealings with consumers, making its monopolistic market distortion clearer than ever. And that makes the case for doing away with the PLCB stronger than ever.

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