Who needs wine in a pandemic? by
(15 Stories)

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

When I moved to Pennsylvania decades ago my brother-in-law explained the liquor laws. For wine or hard liquor the state stores have a monopoly except for local wineries. Then there are beverage stores which are privately owned and sell beer and soda by the case. You could also buy a six pack of beer (but no more) at bars.

Over the years a few additions have occurred. Some super markets have been allowed to have separate sections that sell wine (but no more than 3 liters) and beer (limited to an amount greater than a 12 pack but less than a case). Out-of-state wineries and online sites have been allowed to register with the state to ship wine into the state, of course, with payment of relevant taxes.

As the state imposed pandemic orders to close businesses and stay at home, the state liquor stores were closed. A massive rush of Pennsylvanians headed for the nearest adjacent state to stock up on wine and hard liquor. In normal times many of those who live near the state line routinely shop in private stores in other states because of lower prices and better selection but legally you have to pay taxes if you bring this cargo into the state. After the shutdown, however, the numbers crossing the line and the distances they travelled increased greatly. Delaware State Police began patrolling liquor store parking lots and similar stories were reported from New Jersey, West Virginia, Ohio and probably other adjacent states. Politicians in those states howled at the additional burden placed on them when they were dealing with their own problems. The state stores announced the opening of online shopping (with wine limited to 6 bottles). The website immediately and repeatedly crashed. Then they announced phone order availability. Busy signals prevailed.

Someday they may reopen the stores but the clamor to privatize the stores is growing.

Profile photo of JeanZ JeanZ

Characterizations: been there, moving, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Jean, how interesting to learn about these arcane liquor laws that Pennsylvania still has. I had no idea there were any such places in the US two decades in to the 21st century. And the answer to your title question is probably EVERYBODY! I was expecting your story to end with some kind of emergency legislation making wine available because of the pandemic. But I guess not. Hope you have a good supply of your own!

    • JeanZ says:

      I don’t think emergency legislation is required. They were just afraid to close many other categories of businesses and still leave the state stores open.
      I have bought the four bottle quota at the supermarket when I can and have tried online orders from outside wineries — some nice new finds but higher than my usual price range!

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    I don’t get why liquor store are essential businesses in some states. Same with gun shops. In Illinois, they had to set an earlier curfew for closing liquor stores because people were hanging out in front of them, hardly social distancing. Drink at home, folks. And stay away from those guns. Too much togetherness and guns lead to big trouble.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    I live outside Boston where liquor stores are considered “essential businesses” and have stayed open. Your story tells quite the opposite tale; how desperate folks are to get their taste in a state with restrictive orders! So interesting to see how different states handle the sale of alcohol. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Thanx Jean., I wonder how many of us formerly only social drinkers will now be hitting the bottle.
    I think it’s happening already in my house!

  5. Marian says:

    Jean, my sweetheart switched to beer for the duration of the pandemic because you can have single bottles. I don’t drink alcohol for medical reasons, except for a thimbleful of white wine with a full meal, so wine is a challenge. Although, Dick did open a bottle of red and had a glass at dinner for several days. Isn’t it funny what’s considered essential? Sorry about the state liquor stores. Sounds like their technology is similar to the California unemployment office, except that’s nothing to joke about.

    • JeanZ says:

      The beverage stores are still open so beer is as available as ever. We don’t drink beer except in really hot weather but I did buy a 12 pack at the supermarket in case summer ever comes.

  6. Dorothy Rice says:

    Wow – it’s a wonder people can keep track of the requirements! You would think the state police would have better things to do than patrol liquor store parking lots and such! It’s amazing what differences there are between states. I had no idea. Thanks for sharing. I learned something!

Leave a Reply