Owners of several beer distributor retail businesses in Carbon County had the opportunity to share their concerns with State Rep. Doyle Heffley over Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to shut down the state-owned liquor stores, auctioning off the existing wine and liquor store licenses and opening beer and wine sales to places like supermarkets, drug stores and convenience stores.
Corbett says such a sell-off would raise millions of dollars to fund education and give the vast majority of Pennsylvanians what they want: more choice and convenience.
Surrounded by about a dozen Carbon County small business owners at his Lehighton office, Heffley said that he understood their concerns about Corbett's plan because it would hurt their businesses.
Speaking for the local distributors was Mark Tanczos of Tanczo's Beverage in Bethlehem. Tanczo is the president of the Pennsylvania Malt Beverage Distribution Association (MBDA).
Tanczos said that the local beer distributors fear that the law will put them out of business because they wouldn't be able to compete with the big box stores.
Tanczo said there is only so much demand for beer in the state.
Heffley said that there is ongoing legislation that brought malt beverages to light.
"I care about the small private mom and pop businesses," said Heffley. "You have played by the rules and provided a service to the residents of the state and we want to do our best to work with these small business owners."
Tanczo said that back in 1937 beer distributors were asking to be able to sell six packs for convenience to their customers. Although unable to do so, local distributors have played by the rules for all these years but now may lose their business. They still cannot sell six packs while local restaurants are able to.
"Large box stores sell a lot of items that are profitable and they can afford to cut prices while the beer distributors have been handicapped by archaic laws and taxes that have hurt business," he said.
"I am concerned for local small business owners," said Heffley. "There is a bill in the House that is bill in the House that is similar to last year."
Tanczo said that is a franchise can only purchase two licenses it will not be worth it to the chain.
Heffley said that there are quite a few wineries in the area who want to have more exposure and take their wine to market. He said that Corbett's plan is about giving people more choices and allowing viable markets for local wineries.
Tanczo said that the local beer distributors also serve to keep alcoholic beverage out of the hands of underage teens.
Under the proposal, owners of supermarkets, drug stores, restaurants and big-box stores would be able to buy separate licenses to sell beer and wine. Convenience store owners would be eligible to sell beer while the state's licensed beer distributorships would be able to bid for licenses to sell wine and liquor.
Heffley said that Carbon County is a rural county area and is nothing like Philadelphia.
"It's two different markets," said Heffley. "We held this session today to keep the lines of communication open."
Heffley said that the goal is to provide a wider variety to Pennsylvania wineries and to give them a better access to market.
Tanczos said that there is also a border bleed because a lot of people go over to Maryland or over to Delaware or over to New Jersey to purchase alcohol.
Heffley said the state is loosing a lot of tax revenues because of the border bleed.
Tanczos said the border bleed is caused by the taxes that are charged in Pennsylvania that raises the cost of beer.
Following the news conference, Heffley held a closed session with the owners of the beer distributor businesses to hear their concerns.