Pa. Senate committee advances GOP-authored bill expanding canned cocktail sales

By: and - May 10, 2023 11:42 am

State Sen. Mike Regan, R-York. (Image courtesy of Pennsylvania Senate)

Legislation expanding where consumers can purchase ready–to-drink beverages saw approval from a Pennsylvania Senate committee on Wednesday, moving to the full chamber for consideration.

The Republican-controlled Law and Justice Committee advanced legislation from Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, expanding where consumers can purchase RTDs, commonly called canned cocktails, to include spaces not operated by state stores.

Under current law, only the state liquor system can sell canned cocktails.

Regan, who chairs the legislative committee, said his proposal — letting state, grocery, and convenience stores, beer distributors, and local bars sell canned cocktails — would “simply expand” options to buy the products and open “additional avenues to import” them into Pennsylvania, telling lawmakers he doesn’t think the expansion would impact the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s sales.

“As we implement this, I think it’s important for the LCB to be a partner,” Regan said before Wednesday’s 6-5 vote.

Regan first tacked on amendment language expanding canned cocktails sales in June 2021 to a bill that would have made cocktails to-go — which served as a lifeline for bars and restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic — a permanent feature statewide.

Then-Gov. Tom Wolf, however, opposed the addition and said he would veto the bill. Regan’s proposal also drew criticism from UFCW Local 1776, the union representing workers in the state liquor system.

Changes to the existing system are highly contested, with some worrying expansion could cut into state revenue from the PLCB and threaten UFCW jobs in the system.

As previously reported by the Capital-Star, Regan’s brother-in-law Frank Sourbeer serves as president of Wilsbach Distributors, a Harrisburg-area beer distributor, and would stand to benefit from the private sales of canned cocktails. Sourbeer also co-chaired Regan’s first Senate campaign and is a political donor.

Though all four Democratic lawmakers voted against the measure on Wednesday, they did note a willingness to compromise, asking to be a part of future conversations with the PLCB about the bill.

“I’m told that we had a hearing in 2021, and since then it feels like the [state] stores have made a lot of progress,” state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, said. “I’d be interested in hearing their perspective before we land anywhere on how we consider the future of how we sell these products.”

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Marley Parish

Marley Parish covered the Senate for the Capital-Star.

Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.