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A judge puts the PLCB on the hot seat for its wine fees to restaurants

November 18, 2021

The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Harold Brubaker

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth and Supreme Courts found that the Liquor Control Board violated a 2016 law by not allowing direct shipments of wine to restaurant and continue to charge handling fees.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board had a rough day in court Wednesday.

A Commonwealth Court judge pointedly asked a lawyer for the PLCB, “How do we get the government to stop violating the law?”

Judge Anne E. Covey was talking about the wine and liquor monopoly’s ongoing violation of a law requiring it to permit wine dealers to ship wines not carried by the agency directly to retailers and restaurants. The agency snags a fee for that, but was supposed to stop taking those payments by June 2017.

More than four years later, the PLCB still hasn’t stopped charging fees, despite a May 2020 Commonwealth Court order — upheld by the state Supreme Court — ordering the agency to allow direct shipments and to stop charging handling fees.

[…]

“The government is charging a fee that does not belong to them,” costing tens of millions of dollars, John Papianou, a Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads lawyer representing the wine dealers and restaurants, told the judges. “They need to give it back.”

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