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Beer here

| Monday, July 11, 2005

Pennsylvanians legally may be able to buy a case of beer on Sundays in their own state under legislation approved by the Senate last week. But local beer distributors have mixed feelings.

Tim Siefert, owner of Siefert Distributing, in Connellsville, said Sunday sales is something he saw coming. After all, other states have Sunday sales.

Distributors will now be allowed to open from noon to 5 p.m.

While Siefert said that some of his customers are excited about having the opportunity to purchase a case of beer on Sunday, he doesn't see much changing in terms of sales.

"People won't drink more," Siefert said, adding that the customer who normally buys two cases on a Saturday will soon just buy a case on Saturday and a case on Sunday.

"It will all even out," Siefert said.

Keith Demichelis, manager of Dunbar Distributors, in Connellsville, said the law is a slap in the face to taverns and six-pack shops that are allowed to sell beer on Sunday.

For the taverns and six-pack shops to sell beer on Sunday, they must obtain a license that costs nearly $250 a year; the license for distributors to sell cases on Sunday is only $100 a year.

"The way the state regulates its alcohol licensing is archaic," Siefert said.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Sean Logan, an Allegheny County Democrat, said the measure brought fairness to laws on alcoholic beverage sales, since thousands of restaurants and taverns and dozens of state liquor stores can sell on Sundays.

"It's incredible to think that the state mandates a beer distributor to be closed on Sunday," Logan said.

Similar legislation failed last year in the face of opposition from restaurant and tavern owners, who said it would cut into their business. To satisfy them, the legislation now expands the wholesale discount they get on purchases from state liquor stores from 7 percent to 10 percent. It also would remove the requirement that a tavern or restaurant selling liquor on Sunday must make 30 percent of its money from food.

Demichelis said distributors like his may also lose sales along with the taverns because distributors supply beer to the taverns.

Siefert said Fridays and Saturdays and around the holidays are his busiest beer sales time. He said the law may benefit beer distributors during professional football season.

"That could be a pretty big day for us," Siefert said.

Demichelis said he can't see a bunch of people before a 1 p.m. game rushing to the distributor at noon to buy a case, and tailgaters normally set up in front of a stadium in the morning, before the distributor will open.

Both Siefert and Demichelis will both be open on Sunday now. They said they will wait and see what happens.

"Everything cycles," said Demichelis, who added that just because liquor sales are up in the state and beer sales are going down, having an extra day to sell beer isn't going to cause the liquor drinkers to switch to beer.

"I doubt it will generate new drinkers, but six-pack sales will drop," Demichelis said.

Sunday sales will not go into effect until September.

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