If the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board really wants to make things convenient for customers, it should push to get out of the retail business.
The board has started a "Convenience 2020" initiative that is exploring ways to locate state liquor stores inside or near supermarkets in an effort to allow make it more convenient for customers, according to published reports.
The initiative stems from the latest push by some in the General Assembly to privatize the state store system. It's an idea that's gaining acceptance from the public, despite resistence in the Legislature.
A Philadelphia Inquirer poll last week showed that 55 percent of those polled favored privatization of the state system, while 61 percent favored allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine.
Locally, Giant Eagle in the Logan Town Centre is licensed to sell beer, as is the Sheetz restaurant at 17th Street and Valley View Boulevard.
All wine and liquor sales in the state are handled solely by the PLCB.
But rather than just looking at locations in grocery stores for liquor stores, the best way to ensure convenience would be to turn the state store system over to private enterprise.
The difference between public-sector enterprises and private businesses was evident last week as Hurricane Sandy struck the state. The PLCB closed all of its stores statewide from 3 p.m. Monday until Wednesday morning, while many companies - and most stores in central Pennsylvania - maintained a largely normal schedule.
Which one is more convenient for customers?
And even the the PLCB's drive to locate state-run stores inside grocery stores doesn't optimize convenience because it requires alcohol purchases to be made at designated registers only.
That means customers in a grocery store that sells beer and also has a state store would have to use three different cash registers: one for beer, one for liquor and then one for groceries.
How about one register for all three? That would be possible with a privatized system that removes outdated and unneeded regulations.
With the current legislative session drawing to a close on Nov. 30, at least next year before senators and representatives will consider proposals to get Pennsylvania out of the retail liquor business.
Let's hope they do because competition in the private sector would ensure convenience.
That's something the PLCB can never match with its monopoly on liquor sales.