New Castle News

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February 1, 2013

Local merchants not high on state plan for liquor sales

NEW CASTLE — If Gov. Tom Corbett opens liquor sales as other states have done, similar controls should be imposed, area businessmen believe.

“If he’s making changes, he should take care of existing businesses,” beer salesman Gus Benetas said. “The state must regulate prices as they do in Ohio. That is the only way this can work for all of us.”

Benetas has sold food and six packs as Mr. B since 1989 in Shenango Township. He opened Mr. B’s in Neshannock Township in 2003. He plans to relocate that operation to Shenley Square in the spring.

“Times change,” Benetas said. “But I don’t understand why the governor believes there is a need to privatize. Things are working well as they are, and it is not as if the state is struggling to sell alcohol. It is a monopoly. Why would he want to change that?”

Corbett this week announced plans to get the state out of the business of selling alcohol and open that market to private businesses who would compete for beer and liquor licenses.

Corbett’s proposal includes selling state liquor stores.

Existing businesses — including distributors and bottle shops — would continue, but the governor sees the market opening up as businesses compete through public auction for expanded liquor licenses that would allow the sale of liquor as well as beer.

“The big boys would get bigger at the expense of us little guys,” Benetas said. “Who could go up against a Walmart or Giant Eagle who have unlimited resources?”

Since Pennsylvania allowed beer sales in grocery stores, Benetas campaigned on behalf of the small business owners who he claims are at a disadvantage because of their limited inventories.

“They sell many items, not just beer. “

Benetas noted this is not the first time and Corbett is not the first governor to seek to eliminate the state store system or privatize liquor sales.

“As the governor proposes, grocery stores will get a bigger advantage,” he said. “They will be able to place beer on the shelves not in isolated areas — and start to sell beer by the case.”

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