2011-06-23 / Local & State

Pa. Liquor Board Extends Moratorium On Price Hikes

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said “no’’ once again on Wednesday to retail price increases for liquor and wine.

The three-member regulatory panel voted unanimously to reject suppliers’ requests for increases on about 400 of the more than 10,000 products sold in the state stores. For most of the items, officials said the increase would have been about $1 a bottle.

Board Chairman P.J. Stapleton said the action continues a moratorium on retail price increases that was imposed in November. He said consumers are still “buying down,’’ or choosing cheaper brands, because of the weak economy.

Retail prices in the state stores have not increased since August, when an increase the board approved in May took effect, said board spokeswoman Stacey Witalec.

The latest action comes as the 77-year-old board and state-employee unions are fighting for the survival of Pennsylvania’s system of selling liquor and wine exclusively through its network of stateowned stores.

Gov. Tom Corbett favors turning over the business to private operators and ordered an ongoing study to determine the value of the licenses that would be auctioned off as part of that process.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, is an outspoken advocate of privatization, although similar efforts in past years have withered in the Legislature.

The board received more bad news last week, when Wegmans Food Markets Inc. pulled out of an agreement to sell wine through automated kiosks at 10 of its Pennsylvania stores, citing problems with the machines and mounting customer complaints.

Stapleton insisted Wednesday’s action was not driven by politics.

“This is a business decision,’’ he said.

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