The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board cannot simply ignore an order by the legislature allowing importers and licensed sellers to ship alcohol directly to special order customers, bypassing state liquor stores, ruled Friday a panel of the Commonwealth Court.
In an opinion from Judge P. Kevin Brobson, the court ruled that the LCB should have implemented such a system years ago.
The Commonwealth Court ruling, if it stands up to appeal, will effectively eliminate LCB as a go-between, allowing vendors to ship special orders of alcohol directly to bars, restaurants and other customers.
The LCB demanded that these shipments stop at liquor stores across the state, where the agency charges a handling fee. Customers had to pick up their shipments from state stores.
The Commonwealth Court took up the case after two wine distributors, MFW Wine Co. and A6 Wine Co., and Bloomsday Café sued the LCB.
Brobson found that the LCB is not only required to allow direct shipment of special orders by legislation passed in 2016, but should have put in place a program to do so by June 1, 2017. He rejected the LCB’s argument that the legislation did not contain such a mandate. .
The legislation in question “does not authorize the PLCB to prevent by its inaction the will of the General Assembly to authorize direct shipments of special orders,” Bobson wrote. “The General Assembly does not make its statutory direct shipment authorization conditional on the PLCB’s agreement with the political decision.”
“Although the PLCB has discretion over the procedure to be adopted to implement these transactions, it does not have the power to prevent them,” he added.
Brobson did not set a deadline for the LCB to implement the overdue drop shipping system, but urged speed. “The tribunal is convinced that PLCB has the resources and the ingenuity to do so without unreasonable delay,” he wrote.