Pennsylvania Introduces State-Owned Wine Vending Machines

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By Jason Beahm on July 09, 2010 7:11 AM

The future of alcohol sales? Vending machines, perhaps.

Pennsylvania recently introduced wine kiosks, a sharp turn for a state with some of the country's most strict alcohol laws. Right now the machines are located in two grocery stores. If the test run goes well, the machines could spread to 100 additional stores, according to the state Liquor Control Board.

Customers seem enthusiastic about the machines, the AP reports:

"This is just convenient one-stop shopping," said Darby Golec, 28, of Enola. "It'll be nice to have it all in one area."

The machines are especially appealing in Pennsylvania because of its restrictive liquor laws. For example, wine and liquor can only be sold in state-owned stores and corner stores can only sell up to two six-packs per customer of legal age. By contrast a person can buy alcohol from the machine by completing a few simple steps...well, perhaps not simple:

First the customer selects a bottle on wine from a touch-screen display. Then they swipe their ID to verify their age. Then they blow into a breathalyzer device to test their blood alcohol level. Then they look into a surveillance camera. Then a state employee remotely approves the sale after verifying the information. Oh, and the machines are closed on Sundays and holidays. And they charge a $1 convenience fee. Nice.

I for one would rather move states than go through all of that just to pick up a bottle of merlot on the way to a get together.

Liquor board Chairman Patrick Stapleton called it "an added level of convenience in today's busy society." Others disagree. "The process is cumbersome and assumes the worst in Pennsylvania's wine consumers -- that we are a bunch of conniving underage drunks," Wallace wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "(Liquor board) members are clearly detached from reality if they think these machines offer any value to the consumer."

Others are concerned that despite the lengthy verification process, the machines might not do enough to stop underage purchases. "I don't think it's such a good idea. For the underage kids it's too accessible," said Jerry Bates, 41, of Middletown to The Patriot-News.

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