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January 06, 2023

Pennsylvania to raise prices on more than 3,500 items at state liquor stores

Popular brands like Fireball and Tito's will see a 4% cost hike, going into effect on Jan. 15

Government PLCB
PLCB Price Increase Sigmund/Unsplash

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board will raise the prices of 3,554 popular wine and spirit items by 4% beginning on Jan. 15. The state agency cited economic necessity as the reason for the increase.

Pennsylvanians are facing rising prices for grocery items, turnpike tolls and the state gas tax in 2023. By mid-January, some of the state's most popular liquors and wines will be more expensive as well. 

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said it would increase prices on approximately 3,554 of its best-selling products by 4% beginning on Sunday, Jan. 15. The agency, which controls liquor sales across the state, cited economic conditions caused by a 40-year record-high inflation rate impacting manufacturers and retailers across the country. 

"These increases will allow the PLCB to generate revenues needed to offset annual 8% increases in operating costs over the last four years, plus projected cost increases in the current year, related to personnel, distribution, leases and credit card fees, among others," Shawn Kelly, press secretary for the PLCB, said in a written statement. 

Each of the state's top-selling liquor brands will see price increases later this month, including Pennsylvania's most popular liquor brand, Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. The 50 milliliter bottle of the spirit will retail at $1.03, up from $0.99, while the cost of a 750 milliliter bottle will increase from $18.99 to $19.79. 

Other top selling items of 2022, including New Amsterdam's flagship vodka and Pink Whitney spirit, will each be increased from $13.99 to $14.55 per bottle. Tito's Handmade Vodka, three sizes of which were included among the top 10 sellers in the state, will also see 4% price increases. 

There are still thousands of items not subject to the price increase. Among them are about 5,600 seasonal and luxury items, 2,700 clearance items, 100 PA Proud items and all special order products. The 397 items that are currently on sale for January will remain on sale, but will undergo the same price increases on their regular retail value on Jan. 30. 

The price increase could renew an ongoing effort by Republicans in the state legislature to privatize Pennsylvania's alcohol sales. In early 2022, legislators introduced a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the PLCB from manufacturing and selling alcohol. The legislation has stalled since passing a House committee in July. 

"It's a monopolistic government grab when inflation is hurting people the worse," Sen. Mike Regan, a Republican from York County, told PennLive regarding the price increase. "You'd think that's when you would want to get creative if you want to stay competitive but they don't have to be competitive. They're a monopoly." 

For years, Republican lawmakers have sought to remove Pennsylvania authorities from the liquor and wine business. They've faced staunch opposition from Democrats, and one effort was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2015. 

A May 2022 poll from Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Opinion Research found that 46% of registered voters in the state approve of a constitutional amendment to privatize Pennsylvania's alcohol sales, while 42% were opposed. Overall, 52% of voters support disbanding the state-run liquor system, but are seemingly split over how to best make the shift. 

The executive director of the PLCB has had the authority to choose pricing for wine and spirit items since 2016. The decision was supported unanimously by all members of the PLCB. 

Kelly said that the PLCB has "resisted" increasing prices at Fine Wine and Good Spirits locations since 2019, despite facing numerous pandemic and inflation-relating cost increases. Most of the cost increases seen since 2019 have been passed along from vendors and manufacturers.