Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Plcb May Allow Distributors to Sell 12-Packs Rules Determining What Constitutes a 'Case' under Scrutiny

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Plcb May Allow Distributors to Sell 12-Packs Rules Determining What Constitutes a 'Case' under Scrutiny

Article excerpt

Bound for decades by rules requiring malt beverages to be sold mainly by the case or keg, Pennsylvania beer distributors could soon be able to sell 12-packs.

As soon as today, according to multiple sources, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is expected to issue an advisory decision that would, in effect, allow distributors to sell cases of beer that contain a minimum of 128 ounces.

Such a ruling would overturn post-Prohibition-era restrictions on brewers and distributors seeking to sell beer in Pennsylvania, and would succeed where numerous legislative attempts to rewrite the state's beer "packaging" laws have failed.

If the advisory decision comes to pass, state Sen. Jay Costa, D- Forrest Hills, said, it would represent a victory for distributors and the state's small brewers.

"I think it's a tremendous opportunity for our Pennsylvania breweries," he said, because their products will available in smaller quantities, encouraging the sampling of different brews.

Shoppers can find smaller quantities elsewhere, of course. Bars, then convenience stores, then gas stations and grocery stores, have all gained the legal ability to sell six- and 12-packs to shoppers, though often at higher per-bottle or per-can prices than would be found in a distributor.

Two local distributors have played a major role in forcing the PLCB to confront the case-size question. Pistella Beer Distributors in Friendship, owned by Frank Pistella - who also is the first vice president of the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania - and Save-Mor Beer in Squirrel Hill sued the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in the state's Commonwealth Court last year. The distributors are seeking to learn what, specifically, constitutes a case in Pennsylvania.

It's not an exact measurement, as it turns out. As per Act 84 of 2006:

"'Case' shall mean a package prepared by the manufacturer for sale or distribution of 12 or more original containers totaling 264 or more fluid ounces of malt or brewed beverages, excepting those packages containing 24 or more original containers each holding seven fluid ounces or more."

In other words, it could be 12 bottles, or 24, or 30. It has to contain at least 264 ounces of beer - unless seven-ounce "pony" bottles are involved, in which case it's a minimum of 168 ounces.

To make matters more confusing, there's another avenue for selling malt beverages in the case of Pennsylvania - it can be sold by the case, or in "original containers containing 128 ounces or more." Generally, that has been interpreted to mean single units, such as mini-kegs and novelty containers. But some malt brewers have gotten permission from the PLCB to sell two or more of those novelty units in a single package.

In 2010, for example, the PLCB ruled that it would be OK for a Franklin, Pa. …

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