HARRISBURG, Pa. — Swipe your driver’s license, look into the camera, blow into the breath sensor and — voila! — you have permission to buy a bottle of wine from a vending machine.
Pennsylvania, which has some of the most Byzantine liquor laws in the nation, recently introduced the country’s first wine “kiosks.” If the machines are successful in their test run inside two grocery stores, the state Liquor Control Board could place the high-tech alcohol automats in about 100 others.
But does anyone want to buy wine this way?
It seems the answer is yes. Customers using the machine at a Giant supermarket outside Harrisburg were thrilled that it could be a permanent fixture.
“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 vending machines are a testament to both the wonder of technology and the obscurity of Pennsylvania’s complicated liquor laws.
Individuals can buy wine and liquor for home consumption only in state-owned stores staffed by public employees. Private beer distributors sell cases and kegs only. Licensed corner stores, delis, bars and restaurants can sell beer to go, but only up to two six-packs per customer.
Numerous attempts at reform have been turned back by special interests intent on keeping their slice of the pie. So simply stocking Chianti and cabernet on supermarket shelves is not an option under the state’s post-Prohibition liquor laws.
The liquor board has tried to be more consumer-friendly in recent years, including opening 19 full-service state stores in supermarkets. The board touts the kiosks as another step toward modernization — “an added level of convenience in today’s busy society,” liquor board Chairman Patrick Stapleton said in a statement.