LCB turning off wine vending machines

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HARRISBURG -- The state is pulling the plug on wine vending machines.

As of today, grocery store shoppers will no longer be able to buy a bottle of chianti -- or anything else -- from wine kiosks that dot the state.

The state Liquor Control Board ended the program because of a dispute with Simple Brands, the Conshohocken-based supplier of the dispensers.

The board is expected to release more details this afternoon.

The state paid no money for the kiosks. Simple Brands planned to make money through convenience fees charged to customers, a 50-cents-per-bottle fee paid by the state and from product-placement fees charged to wholesalers whose wines were offered in the machines.

The contract has been controversial from the start, with Republicans accusing former Gov. Ed Rendell of steering it to Simple Brands because two of its investors contributed more than $400,000 to his political campaigns. Mr. Rendell has denied that.

Later, the grocery store chain Wegmans pulled out of the program because, its managers said, customers found the machines cumbersome to use and fraught with mechanical problems.

Later, a memo was leaked showing that a committee of Liquor Control Board employees recommended against contracting with Simple Brands.

The program was launched last summer. It was meant to be a convenience for shoppers who could pick up a bottle of wine while buying groceries.

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: or 717-787-2141.


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