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Harrisburg’s plan to ‘modernize’ PA liquor laws: What changes, what doesn’t

Wine in grocery stores! Rewards programs! Wine take-out from restaurants! Liquor purchasing on Sundays and holidays!

Hey Pennsylvania, it could suck less to buy booze pretty soon.

Our lawmakers compromised (gasp!) and the Pennsylvania House held a surprise vote today to approve bipartisan legislation that modernizes the liquor system. What’s that mean? Wine can be sold in grocery stores, and state stores can sell liquor on Sundays and holidays. Lawmakers in the House say Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, may sign the legislation into law; he’s said he’ll review it.

The folks who worked on this bill are calling it “historic,” and it is; it’s the largest change to Pennsylvania’s liquor code in decades and is signaling the first step toward fully privatizing the state’s liquor system.

Should Wolf sign the bill (it’s already passed through the Senate), here’s a look at what you could do beginning 60 days after passage. And what you still can’t.

What you’d be able do

1. Buy wine in grocery stores

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Vinos, rejoice. This new bill means that in addition to picking up a six-pack of beer at Wegmans like you can now, you can now nab a bottle of wine, too. In theory, Two Buck Chuck could actually come to a Trader Joe’s near you. Try not to cry tears of joy at your desk right now.

2. Go to a liquor store whenever you damn well please

Did you run out of tequila while dozens of people were in your house celebrating Fourth of July? Are you craving a box of Franzia on a Sunday? Do you not celebrate Christmas and would like to purchase alcohol on that day of the year? Great news! The new bill allows for Pennsylvania’s 620 state stores to be open for longer hours and on Sundays and holidays. Currently, only a quarter of state stores are allowed to open on Sundays — and all are shut tight on Christmas or Easter.

3. Buy four bottles of wine at a restaurant and ~ take it home with you ~

The old rule used to go as such: You can buy four bottles of wine at a restaurant if you want, but you must drink that wine sitting right there at the table. No more! Now restaurants and bars can get a permit to sell up to four bottles of wine as take-out like six-pack-of-beer style.

4. Use a coupon or join a loyalty program

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You can get a loyalty card at most gas stations that’s helpful if you, say, buy cigarettes all the time. You can use coupons on soda and junk food and sugar and cases of those little Hugs juices that *may* slowly kill your organs. Now, state stores will be allowed to establish loyalty programs and offer discounts so people can save money on buying booze. There has long been a concern that these types of programs encourage alcohol consumption. Apparently the legislature got over that.

5. Drink 24/7 at a casino

Now you can swig a rum and Coke at 9 a.m. while you watch the slots spin at SugarHouse Casino, if that’s your jam. And you can even drink off the gaming floor. (Before this bill, casino-goers had to consume their booze in a specified area.)

6. Buy a lottery ticket at a state store

The second most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania thanks you for your purchase of vodka and 35 scratch-off tickets.

What you still couldn’t do

1. Buy liquor and beer in the same location

If you would like a lager with that bourbon, you’re SOL. Hard liquor is still not allowed in grocery stores, so you’ll still have to go to a liquor store and a grocery store if you’re stocking up on multiple types of booze.

2. Buy more than four bottles of wine at the grocery store

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There will be a limit, sorry. You can only buy up to four bottles of wine at a grocery store, and these stores will need a special permit like they need now in order to sell beer. It is unclear if this means Franzia will be offered at Thriftway. We will get back to you the moment we hear the news.

3. Get wine or beer with your groceries in the same transaction

Wine will be sold at grocery stores in the same way beer currently is — in a location separate from the area where you pay for your food.

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