Distress at Distributors

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POTTSVILLE -- While many Pennsylvanians would like to see changes to the way we buy alcohol. Small businesses that rely on the current system are concerned with the governor's plans, that includes beer distributors, like the ones in Schuylkill County.

Kory Bates has been selling beer at My Brother's Beer Barn Distributor in the Hometown area for decades.

His sales went up when a Walmart moved into the neighborhood recently, but if Governor Corbett gets his way, Walmart and many other stores could soon be in competition with him.

"We're sitting back watching everything, wondering which direction it's going to head. Should you invest money into the property, into real estate, into the business or not?" said Kory Bates of My Brother's Beer Barn.

Because of the uncertainty, Bates and his wife are opening a restaurant and looking into other options to diversify their business in case distributorships dry up.

"I'm in my early 50s, and I'm looking into other things, other ventures just in case. I got a bunch of kids in college now, so I'm trying to worry about the mortgage payments and all the other stuff involved," said Bates.

However, he said distributors could be helped some. The change calls for them to sell more variety.

"Right now we're just limited on just selling case beer. We have people walking in the door looking for six packs, 12 pack quarts. We have to turn people down, go down the street here, down the street there," said Bates.

One proposal by the Governor is for distributors like Brennan's in Pottsville to sell beer and wine, but some distributors said that would be a big investment, one they can't afford.

"How much money are you tying up in that. Small guys like us, small businesses like me wouldn't be able to afford it," said Shawn Brennan of Brennan's Distributing.

Brennan's Distributing owner Shawn Brennan fears licenses for him to sell wine or liquor will be too expensive. He's also concerned about supermarkets selling beer like he does.

"There's a lot of uncertainly out there right now, and we don't know which way to go or which way to turn," said Brennan.

Governor Corbett said only Utah has stricter alcohol laws than Pennsylvania. He said it's time to make beer, wine and liquor sales in the Keystone state more convenient.

He said it would take four years to make the transition. Of course, that's if it passes in the state capitol.

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