Home-delivered beer would be great, too
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Carson Gaston, who co-owns Alfie's Pizza in Lehighton with his brothers, takes beer from a cooler at the First Street eatery. Gaston said he needs more information from state officials before he decides if he will participate in home beer deliveries.
A recent Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board legal opinion says beer delivery is an option in Pennsylvania, but local establishments are wondering if the headache is worth the gain.
Alcohol-serving establishments, such as pizza shops and other eateries, can now apply for a Class B transporter-for-hire license, which would allow them to deliver up to two six-packs of beer to a customer's front door, per the Dec. 5 PLCB ruling.
The law is not new, PLCB officials say, but its interpretation hadn't been questioned before Peter Gaeth of Meadville did it last year.
"After consultation with the Director of Licensing and Director of Regulatory Affairs, this office has confirmed that retail licensees, such as restaurant liquor licensees, hotel liquor licensees, and eating place malt beverage licensees, may obtain a transporter-for-hire license to transport a third party's alcohol," the PLCB ruling stated.
On the surface, the ruling seems like a revenue generator for area establishments who already sell six-packs in their stores, but business owners aren't pounding down Harrisburg's doors with license applications.
The license costs $160 each year, plus an initial $700 filing fee, on top of other potential expenses.
"We've been in this area 13 years and have an idea about how it works," said Kevin Cordon, of Antonio's Pizzeria in Jim Thorpe. "After looking over the regulations, I'm not sure it's worth the hassle."
Cordon cited potential concerns about the liability and insurance cost that could go along with delivering beer. He also said establishments would likely eventually have to purchase portable identification readers to ensure customers are of age.
Wayne Gaston, co-owner of Alfie's Pizza and Restaurant in Lehighton, is also skeptical about the benefits.
"We're trying to get more information, so I really can't give an answer as to whether we would apply or not," Gaston said. It might be more of a headache than anything. We don't know all the rules yet."
Gaston said some customers have asked him about delivery.
"It hasn't been a lot of customers," he said. "For what we'll get out of it, I just don't know if it's worth it."
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association supported the PLCB ruling.
"This victory provides both convenience to the customers and allows for the continued growth and success of our industry," said Amy Christie, executive director of the association.
According to the PLCB, license approval could take weeks.
Of nearly 30 applications filed as of Monday, none were from establishments in the Times News coverage area.
The closest applicants are Cluck U in East Stroudsburg, Pizza Como in Bethlehem and Big Woody's and Little John's Pizza in Allentown.
How it works
Customers can call up a licensed "transporter-for-hire" establishment and order up to two six-packs of beer.
The establishment then has to get credit card information for the customer. It can either charge the customer's card at that time, and issue a refund if the customer turns out to be underage or the delivery fails for another reason, or charge it after the delivery is successful.
Cash will not be accepted at the door.
PLCB spokesman Shawn Kelly said it would be up to the individual establishment whether to take the added step of using a portable identification reader to check a customer's age.
An establishment found guilty of serving an underage or visibly intoxicated customer would be subject to the same PLCB penalties as if they sold the beer in a store.
Readers also feel delivery would be a bad idea in the area
"It's too much of a risk," said Chris Kibler of Jim Thorpe. "It's going to cost more money for the license."
It's too difficult to ensure sales are legit, said Heather Keys of Lehighton.
"I say it's extremely risky," she said. "What about those people that may hook up their friends?"
Former state representative candidate Patti Borger said it puts the delivery person in a risky situation.
"Can you imagine an 18-year-old delivery driver carding a roomful of 20-year-olds who have already had some beverages?" she asked.
Carol McCoy said if beer delivery is allowed then wine shipments to Pennsylvania should also be approved.
Not all area residents viewed the ruling with doubt.
"That would be awesome," Nina Bierman said.