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Laws on Beer Up for Vote in Pennsylvania

October 30, 2007

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A new poll by Terry Madonna Opinion Research shows that most Pennsylvanians view easier access to carryout beer, as in supermarkets, as leading to an "increase in the rates of underage drinking or other alcohol-related problems."

The survey, involving 772 Pennsylvania adults interviewed in September, was conducted for the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania.

A total of 54.6 percent of those interviewed saw beer in supermarkets leading to more alcohol-related problems while an even larger percentage -- 62.7 percent -- believed that Pennsylvania's more than 1,300 existing retail malt beverage distributors "provide a sufficient selection of imported and domestic beers."

David Shipula, president of the beer distributors' group, said the consumer responses underscored two of the strengths of the current state beer sales system: wide consumer choices and strong restrictions against sales to minors.

Dr. G. Terry Madonna, President of Terry Madonna Opinion Research, noted that an even higher percentage of respondents -- 71.2 percent -- want to allow retail beer distributors to be able to sell beer in smaller quantities than the current legal purchase of a case of 24 bottles or cans.

"Statewide, people were pretty evenly split over suggestions that we expand the retail sale of beer into supermarkets and convenience stores with 48.9 percent opposed versus 47.9 percent favoring," Madonna said.

Shipula said, "The poll underscores what consumers have been telling our members all along, that the state-sanctioned system of beer sales works well with people being able to buy 12 or fewer cans or bottles for off premises consumption from some 11,000 bar and deli licensees and quantities of a case and larger from some 1,300 retail distributors. If anything, they find it strange that they can't buy less than a case from a beer specialty store."

Legislation has been proposed in Harrisburg to change several aspects of the current system ranging from allowing retail distributors to sell in less than case quantities to allowing bars and delicatessens, and by extension, supermarkets and convenience store/gas stations, to sell up to 18 cans or bottles for off premises consumption.

"People who want to change the law say they are acting on behalf of the consumers but this poll shows that the public wants a system with adequate protections -- something that we do have now," Shipula said. "The consumer also realizes that specialty stores -- and that's what beer distributors are -- tend to carry larger variety and selection of the product than general stores like supermarkets and convenience stores where shelf space is at such a premium that companies must pay 'slotting allowances' for the privilege of having the store stock their brands."

NOTE: The above represents some of the findings of a survey of 772 Pennsylvania adults conducted during September 2007. The survey was designed by Terry Madonna Opinion Research on behalf of various sponsors and the interviewing was conducted by Dynamic Marketing Research Associates of Easton, Maryland. The sample error for the total sample is plus or minus 3.5 percent. Telephone numbers for the survey were generated via random digit dialing. Respondents were selected from within each household. The final sample was weighted to correct for differential probabilities of selection and non- response.

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