Certain topics come up again and again in this space. In videogames, we constantly talk about why save points are stupid. In photo we talk about equipment obsessions and how technique is more important than the camera.

And in the “food and drink” category, I always find some occasion to complain about the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (“PLCB”). This is because, like a dog who returns to his vomit, I keep trying to go into their liquor stores to do crazy, wild, unexpected things, like purchase liquor.

This week’s disappointment comes fresh on the heels of the horrific trolls at the PLCB banning direct wine shipments from Pennsylvania (and thus, out of state) wineries. This was their idiotic response to the recent Supreme Court decision. To his credit, State Senator Jim Ferlo is trying to undo their brain damage — write to the Senator and tell him “thanks”.

The last time I stepped into a State Store, it was in a nearly-vain attempt to procure some Tokaji. Today, I wanted something a lot less ambitious: a bottle of armagnac to use to inebriate some prunes (and, hopefully, myself as well). As in our previous episode, this incident occurred in one of the LCB’s “Premium Collection Stores,” which I am assured “carry an outstanding selection of premium wines and spirits.”

I didn’t see any armagnac on the brandy shelf, so I approached an associate. Hilarity ensued:

“Hi. Do you have any armagnac?”

[With something of a sneer] “Armagnac? What’s that?”

[long pause] “It’s a type of brandy. Like cognac.”

“Is that one of them flavored brandies?”

“No. It’s just brandy.”

“Sorry, I’ve never heard of it.” [turns away].

Now, let me make myself perfectly clear. I’m not upset that they didn’t have any in stock (well, I’m not that upset). Inventory management is tricky. Not every store can have every product all the time. I understand that. But that the supposedly best stores in the LCB system are staffed by people who don’t know what a not-terribly-exotic spirit is, and worse, obviously don’t care just kills me.

What drives me nuts about this is that this conversation is par for the course in one of the allegedly good stores.

A bunch of hateful bureaucrats have entrenched themselves between us and the twenty-first century. The LCB must be destroyed.

Update: In an “amusing” coda to this story, the State’s online inventory system claims there are 3 bottles of Montesquio armagnac at the store I was in.

So, PLCB, once again: screw you.


13 Responses to “It'd Probably Work Better If It Were Run By Drunkards”

  1. rmitz says:

    I wonder if there’s an organization out there dedicated to the destruction of the PALCB. If not, there should be. Maybe…

  2. Well — The same thing kills me about Starbucks and fair trade coffee

    But what’s the sudden obsession with prunes? ;)

  3. Christina says:

    Don’t assume that they don’t have it in stock just because they claim they’ve never heard of it. I got the same response when searching for Doirinha almond liqueur, and it turned out to be on the shelf three feet away.

    (To be fair, I have encountered a few knowledgeable and helpful PLCB clerks. Maybe we ought to see if they’ll reproduce in captivity.)

  4. daw says:

    This reminds me of my favorite PLCB story ever, which occurred when there was a little pilot program to have PLCB stores open for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. One of the test stores was on the South Side, and it was picketed by activists carrying signs about the lord’s day and so on.

    The Post-Gazette interviewed these picketers, and they turned out actually to be PLCB employees.

    Most revealingly, one of them said “We’re supposed to be the liquor CONTROL board. Giving liquor to anyone any time they want willy nilly, that’s not control, that’s anarchy!”

    I think that should be the corporate slogan, framed over every door.

  5. Julie Watt says:

    Down with the PALCB! Get your pitchforks, folks!

  6. Laura says:

    My favorite is Employee Pinball.

    “I don’t know – Fred might, over there.”

    “I don’t know – Sally might, over there.”

    “I think so, but I’m not sure. Bill might know, over there.”

  7. Will C says:

    By God, that’s horrible! Everytime I’ve been to a state-controlled liquor store state I’ve found it appalling, and expensive. Appallingly expensive, but with plenty to buy, if all you want to buy is Cuervo, or Popov vodka or some such.

    I could send you a photo from the Cognac/Armangnac AISLE of the big liquor/wine/gourmet food store in my hinterland metropolis, but that probably wouldn’t be nice. And yeah, the employees know just where it is, and have a few suggestions to offer too. Apparently when you give people a choice, they like it. Weird. Now if I could go in past 9pm, we’d really be getting somewhere…

    It’s hard to fathom where states think they derirved the right to control alcohol sales but they sure cling to that power. And what a horrible response to the Supreme Court “take your pick” decision on wine shipment.

  8. peterb says:

    In an “amusing” coda to this story, the State’s online inventory system claims there are 3 bottles of Montesquio armagnac at the store I was in.

    So, PLCB, once again: screw you.

  9. Here, here, Will C. Exactly the point I was going to make. What hinterland state is that closing at 9pm? Most PLCB places close around then. Although early in the week, lots close at 7pm!

    When I am in PA, I am about 20 minutes from the Ohio border, so I can actually go into a grocery store, and buy wine like a hu-man-bean. Although, Ohio has a 80 proof limit on what you can buy at a grocery store. PeterB, you just have to budget and buy “X” months worth of spirits next time you are out of town.

    Sorry, LA green girl, I don’t think you have convinced a lot of people to get on the icky fair trade bean band wagon. I still want something tasty and cheaper, and not Starbucks.

  10. Will C says:

    Well, I’m in Houston, America’s 4th largest hinterland (GO ASTROS!) and the way it works in most of Texas is grocery stores, gas stations etc can sell beer, wine, fortified wine, and those weird liquor-themed party drinks, up to 40 proof (I think) but no liquor at all. The grocers can sell until 1am, any day (except Sunday, maybe, and in a nod to the past, can’t sell any fortified wine on Sunday, which makes us just that much more moral).

    Liquor stores are a different animal, and can sell any alcoholic beverage, and other foods and so forth if they choose, but must close by 9pm Mon-Sat. Closed Sunday, period.

    None of these, however, are state owned or controlled (thank God).

  11. OK, so I am looking at the PLCB web site, searching the online catalog. I can search for store locations, but I can not figure out how to check inventory? Naturally, I am not a registered user.

  12. peterb says:

    Click on “Industry Partners” and then “Product Catalog”

  13. Eeyore says:

    Just about the only time you can reliably buy armagnac in Pennsylvania is in the lead-up to Xmas. Try going to the premium stores in the next few weeks and you might have better luck. Careful though, if you go too early they won’t have put it out yet, and if you go too late they will have sold out of the actual good stuff.