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PA bill would allow restaurants and bars to sell ‘canned cocktails’ to go. Not everyone is in favor.

By Ford Turner (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Bars, restaurants and other establishments with liquor licenses would be able to sell mixed drinks to go — increasingly popular beverages that typically come in cans — under a bill that passed the state Senate on Wednesday in a close vote.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, said the so-called “canned cocktails” currently are sold only in Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board-run state stores, while sales in other nearby states are not as tightly controlled. The PLCB stores, he said, are not set up well to sell the canned drinks.

“They are very, very, very popular,” Mr. Regan said of the beverages. The key reasons, he said, are “they are low-calorie and low-alcoholic content.”

The bill would let distributors, bars, liquor-license holding restaurants and certain other businesses sell the drinks for off-premises consumption. While multiple influential organizations support the bill, including the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, a variety of arguments against it have surfaced.

Some were presented Wednesday by Sens. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, and Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, before the bill passed the chamber in a 26-24 vote. It now goes to the House for consideration.

Mr. Costa, the top Democrat in the Senate, said he supports the general concept but has concerns about the process that would get the products to the bars and restaurants before they are sold. And, he said, the LCB anticipates losing $80 million in profits over three years if the bill becomes law.

Mr. Street said more widespread sales of canned cocktails would exacerbate the existing problems with so-called “stop and go” establishments in Philadelphia — typically small businesses where Mr. Street said alcohol is often being distributed in areas frequented by children. He said they are “a tremendous nuisance.”

In an interview, Mr. Costa said he would prefer to see the drinks continue to be purchased through the LCB-run system. He said he hopes the bill will be altered to address the concerns if it advances in the House.

“The idea of getting product to consumers, we think that’s a positive step in the right direction,” Mr. Costa said.

Rep. Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster and the top Republican in the Democratic-controlled House, said attempts to pass such a bill in the past have hinged in part on which businesses are allowed to sell the products.

One analysis of the bill found that, assuming sales for ready-to-drink cocktails grow by 100% because of provisions in the bill, the state could see an extra $103 million in tax revenue over a five-year period.

(c)2024 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Source: Berkshire mont

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