Pennsylvania Alcohol Laws Travel Guide
It was a good plan: eight friends, four from New York, two from DC, and two from Tallahassee on the plane to Philadelphia, all renting a house in the Poconos on July 4th.e weekend. It had been almost ten years since I had spent much time in Pennsylvania, and I had never visited the Poconos themselves.
I had also never been faced with the task of buying liquor in Pennsylvania for the Independence Day celebrations. to the fourth. This is, the uninitiated should know, an almost impossible task.
âThe alcohol laws in Pennsylvania are weird,â said one member of our group upon returning from the supermarket the day before July 4th. âIf you want to buy beer, you have to go to a beer store or distributor. If you want to buy spirits, you have to go to a state-run liquor store.
“Uh,” I replied. âIt seems tiring. I’m going to pick some up in the morning when I pick up fishing gear from Dick’s.
There were a few more murmurs about politics, a discussion about monopolies, but I logged out. I attributed it to the general quirkiness of Pennsylvania – a complicated place with its fair share of contradictions.
“Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between,” said James Carville in a famous statement based on his personal work experience, and although more than 20 years have passed since then it remains largely true. “Pennsyltucky” is a nickname with similar intent, widespread enough to warrant its own Wikipedia page.
But what was supposed to be my two hour trip from our rented lakefront home to Wilkes-Barre and back turned into a five hour odyssey of GPS psyche, outdated blue law frustrations and wine shops and closed alcohol. Wasn’t there Kentucky bourbon to be had on Independence Day? Not a glass of Tennessee whiskey? Where was the rum, vodka, and wine the group had been eagerly awaiting?
We could – quite theoretically – buy for $ 120 from 4e half-price July fireworks, apparently every 30 feet in the Poconos on the same day – unless, in the most Pennsylvanian of Pennsylvania legal twists, one is a resident of Pennsylvania, in which case you are not allowed to shop at fireworks stores, tents or outdoor tables. A customer from, say, New York, is entirely free to spend thousands of dollars on patriotic ammunition, as long as that customer signs a form promising not to actually use fireworks within state borders. Hey, what’s exploding in New York is the New York problem, right? Wink wink.
And there is Pennsylvania for you: all the fireworks and no wine on July 4th.
Being a federal holiday, sales of wines and spirits were verboten, and if you’re dumb enough – or n00b enough, in our case – to put off buying your wines and spirits until the holidays, well, then capitalism is canceled for you for a day.
Luckily I found a beer dispenser, which satisfied our alkie itch, but of course that 12 lager pack I picked up couldn’t be purchased on its own. I had to buy an entire case of 24 lagers – not a style that suited the preferences of large groups.
Many Pennsylvania state lawmakers are realizing that outdated laws are a problem, but efforts to change outdated rules have been hampered – just two weeks ago, when the state senate left a four-hour closed-door meeting to review Pennsylvania alcohol. laws. The proposal, allowing beer distributors to start selling wine and spirits, would still have left the state as a middleman in the market.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which published a lengthy review of partisan back and forths responsible for paralyzing laws, the changes were about to pass, but procedural difficulties and a transportation bill prevented a vote, and traffic jams won the day.
As it stands, the message these laws have for tourists to Pennsylvania is simple: bring your own booze if you can, and leave that business in New York, New Jersey, or Washington, DC Plan ahead. , and even Pennsylvania’s most remote and pastoral getaway can stay stocked with essentials no matter how badly Pennsylvania’s laws are against you.