102 Pennsylvania liquor stores opening with longer hours
August 26, 2013 8:36 PM
Matthew McAliley of Pittsburgh's Bloomfield neighborhood likes the idea of expanded hours of the Wine & Spirits store in East Liberty.
By Molly Born Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Right at quitting time on a recent Friday outside Fine Wine & Good Spirits, people rushed out of their vehicles and ran to grab some booze before the doors of the East Liberty store shut for the night.
Robert Lee has been in that spot before.
"I've showed up at the liquor store at 9:01 or something looking for a bottle," said the 43-year-old Philadelphian, who was visiting Pittsburgh on business.
For him, and many others shopping at the Penn Circle South location, one of the state's 10 highest grossing liquor stores, the announcement Monday that it is now open one extra hour six days a week was mostly welcome news -- even for those who weren't sure they'd need such a convenience up to 10 p.m.
"The longer the better, of course," said Vitaly Penkovsky, 47, of East Liberty. "It's a no-brainer."
The Liquor Control Board said to meet customer demands, 102 stores, including 24 in southwestern Pennsylvania, will open up to two hours earlier or will stay open up to two hours longer in the evenings, many Monday through Saturday.
Sundays, by law, will remain unchanged.
"We're always getting constant consumer feedback, and it's always a challenge to increase store operating hours, but to keep the cost effects minimal," said Dale Horst, the LCB's director for retail operations.
Over several weeks this summer, however, field supervisors recommended the changes and said they seemed doable with little cost. The LCB adjusts some store hours every month, but this broad effort looked at counties where stores may have closed at 9 p.m. or where stores kept shorter hours Monday and Tuesday, among other things.
Financial information, customer traffic flow and the expense of opening stores for extra hours were all considered in the decisions, but officials wouldn't go into specific detail about why particular stores were chosen for extra hours over others.
It was hard to tell how the changes might affect managers and employees at the more than 600 state-owned liquor stores -- they aren't permitted to speak with the media. But LCB spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said the extended hours won't include new hires and stores will modifying existing staff schedules.
At the root of the change is the perennial and hotly debated issue of liquor privatization.
"I'm pleased to see them respond like any other business to the appropriate market conditions," said state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, a sponsor of a Senate bill that would take a modernization approach.
Steve Miskin, press secretary for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, said though they're glad efforts are being made to improve the experience at state stores, it's not enough.
"Incremental changes are just that -- incrementally and slow. ... But the ultimate convenience would come by full privatization," he said.
Planned for early August, various factors delayed the changes until Monday -- that they arrived days before Labor Day weekend wasn't on purpose, LCB officials said, but will be fortuitous for many shoppers.
Extended hours listed at some state stores
• 1749 S Braddock Ave. Edgewood; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday
• 5956 Penn Circle South, Suite 20, East Liberty; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday
• 2001 Lincoln Way, Oak Park Mall, White Oak; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
• Penn Hills Shopping Center, 11685 Penn Hills Drive, Penn Hills; 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday
• 139 E. Eighth Ave. Homestead; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Monday and Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday