Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader would like the legislature to privatize liquor stores by Memorial Day. Mike Turzai says private stores would offer better prices and service, and there’s little question but that the selection of wines available would improve as well. Whether his ambitious liberalization of the state’s laws will happen…well, here’s what the head of the union representing those who work in state stores has to say: “Doubtful.” So it’s going to come down to what so much alcohol regulation comes down to: preservation of known inefficiency for the sake of a small, well-organized interest group.
Maryland is backing toward allowing restaurant patrons to bring their own wine to dinner. By “backing toward” I mean that the Baltimore City Council — which has no authority over the matter — is working on a “Request For State Legislation” that advocates allowing corkage. That request then goes to the state legislature, which may or may not pay any attention. While most stupid alcohol regulation is stupid for a reason — for example, when regulation results in increased prices, anti-drinking adovcates celebrate because they believe high prices discourage drinking — anti-corkage laws are stupid for no reason whatsoever. In theory, I guess, they might protect restaurants, except that restaurants that allow corkage make what amounts to an infinite profit margin on brought-in wines.
Finally, the federal Tax and Trade Bureau is once again considering requiring nutritional labeling on alcoholic beverages. Predictably, some are fer it, and some agin it. The Wine Institute thinks labeling requirements should be voluntary — which would mean that they weren’t requirements at all. The Beer Institute is all for labels that quantify calories, carbs, protein, and fat, but perversely doesn’t want the labels to specify a standard serving size. That begs the question of how they’re going to say that a quantity of beer contains a certain number of calories if they’re not required to specify an amount of beer. Maybe it’s some kind of guessing game: we’ll tell you a number of calories and you guess how much beer that is.
I predict that an unintended consequence of nutritional labeling would be product differentiation by the creation of vitamin-fortified versions of existing beverages. That would enable distillers, for example, to claim that one way to prevent osteoparosis is to drink more Popov Vodka, now with Vitamin D. Also, you can be absolutely certain that someone, somewhere, is going to market high-fiber Scotch. I don’t think any of us wants that.