Wine lovers in Pennsylvania may soon have a new reason to raise a glass: vino vending machines. If a plan from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board takes effect, customers in approximately 100 locations around the state will be able to buy bottles of wine from vending machines starting in late September or early October.
The vending machines are intended to make it more convenient for shoppers to buy a bottle of their favorite vintage. After all, residents of the Keystone State have complained for years that state stores offer poor selection and high prices, and often travel to neighboring states, such as New Jersey and Delaware, to buy alcohol. Pennsylvania's liquor laws, which date back to Prohibition, are widely considered among the most Byzantine in the country.
But LCB officials admit the machines won't save taxpayers any money. And as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, not everyone is thrilled with the idea. The union that represents state-store managers has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the LCB, claiming that wine kiosks would reduce wine sales at liquor stores and result in layoffs at those stores, the newspaper reported.
How to Get Wine from a Vending Machine
Under the LCB plan, the machines -- which are 7 feet wide and 8 feet tall -- would be placed in locations, such as supermarkets, where alcoholic beverages cannot currently be sold under Pennsylvania's liquor laws.
Buying a bottle of wine from a machine is more complicated than purchasing a can of soda. Here's how it works: A customer inserts his or her driver's license into the kiosk, which processes the age information from the bar code and matches the photograph on the driver's license to a video image of the buyer at the machine. An LCB employee will also monitor each transaction remotely to make sure that the buyer in the video matches the ID. In addition, the kiosks are equipped with built-in breathalyzers to make sure that the buyer isn't already drunk.
Retailers have been skeptical of the idea, arguing that the security measures wouldn't deter sales of alcohol to minors. In test marketing, the machines have proven a rousing success, according to the LCB. State officials say the transactions take about 20 seconds.
Simple Brands plans to provide the kiosks to the LCB for free. The company profits through advertisements on the machines and a $1-per-transaction convenience fee.