Changes to Pennsylvania's archaic laws on alcohol seem to come one bottle at a time rather than by the barrel. That's because it's usually the court, in narrowly defined cases, and not the Legislature, in broad reforms, that delivers progress.
Case in point is Monday's ruling by Commonwealth Court that allows consumers to buy up to two six-packs of beer at restaurants with liquor licenses operated by supermarkets. The litigation was brought by the Wegmans chain, which has 12 stores in Pennsylvania (two in Erie and the rest in the eastern half of the state), and will give customers the convenience of buying small quantities of take-home beer at a food store. The alternative is to go to a restaurant, tavern or pizza parlor that sells six-packs, or head to a beer distributor, where the customer must buy a case.
Unfortunately, this is not the final word in the beer battle, as the Pennsylvania Malt Beverage Distributors Association plans to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. No doubt these merchants wouldn't mind selling six-packs, too -- but that is also forbidden.
This isn't the only evidence that Pennsylvania's laws on alcohol are built for inconvenience. Packaged wine and spirits are sold by a government monopoly and, while the system has modernized, its Sunday hours and supermarket locations are a rarity.
That's why a pro-consumer decision here would be a small change, but one worth toasting.