A case of beer on Sunday?

Legislator wants to let distributors sell from noon to 5

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HARRISBURG -- It's Sunday afternoon. You're just sitting down to catch the Steelers game on TV when you recall, to your horror, that you forgot to buy beer.

You know you're in trouble because you live in Pennsylvania, where beer distributors haven't been allowed to open on Sundays since at least the early 1930s.

While you could go hunt for a tavern that's allowed to sell six-packs on Sundays, you might prefer the idea state Sen. Sean Logan says he has.

The Democratic ex-mayor of Monroeville said yesterday he plans to introduce a measure next week to allow beer distributors to sell cases of beer on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. A distributor wouldn't have to open on Sundays -- it would be voluntary, Logan said.

Allowing Sunday sales for beer distributors "is a matter of fairness, a matter of leveling the playing field," said Logan, referring to the recent change by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to open selected state stores Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. for sales of liquor and wine.

"Outside of car dealerships, what businesses in Pennsylvania aren't allowed to be open on Sundays in this day and age?" asked Logan.

Logan, co-chairman of the Senate's Law and Justice Committee, which oversees liquor issues, will offer his bill for committee action on Wednesday.

If he gets lucky and both the Senate and the House approve it before the end of the current session on Nov. 30, the Sunday beer sales law could take effect in about 60 days, or just in time for the Super Bowl.

But Logan isn't sure what will happen with the bill. Opposition is expected from at least two sources: tavern owners, who now have Sunday beer sales to themselves and aren't likely to want competition from distributors, and conservative legislators, who oppose further liberalizing alcohol sales on Sunday.

"Expanding the availability of alcohol always has controversy attached to it," said Erik Arneson, an aide to Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill, R-Lebanon. "There will be some senators opposed to this proposal."

Not surprisingly, Logan's move got support yesterday from Dino DeFlavio, owner of the McBroom Beer Store, a distributor in Swissvale since 1959.

"I think we should be able to be open longer than just noon to 5 p.m.," he said. "It should be an eight-hour shift. How can I get anyone to work for just five hours?"

But he said five hours on Sunday would be better than the current system of no hours.

"It would help distributors be more competitive," he said.

Customers won't be a problem, he said.

"I'm sure we'd have them showing up on Sundays," he said. "They show up at bars now to buy six-packs on Sundays."

DeFlavio said he hoped the Legislature would also allow beer distributors to sell different sized packages of beer, such as six-packs and 12-packs as well as the usual cases with 24 or 30 bottles or cans.

He said that in the past, officials from the state's tavern association have opposed Sunday sales by distributors. Those officials couldn't be reached yesterday for comment.

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Tom Barnes can be reached at tbarnes@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-4254.


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