Best of Philly

2020 Coronavirus Silver Lining in Restaurants

We Found a Way to Work Around the PLCB

While COVID-19 decimated the city’s restaurant scene, it also helped push Philly’s antiquated liquor laws just a bit into the 21st century. Here’s how.

The Lawsuit |
The PLCB always acted as the middleman between wine dealers who sold specialty bottles (you know, the natural, biodynamic wine made by small producers) and places where you’d normally buy those bottles (restaurants and bottle shops). So when COVID-19 shut down all Pennsylvania state stores back in March, dealers in Philly were no longer able to sell their product, and independent wine retailers couldn’t restock their shelves. Two dealers, MFW Wine Co. LLC and A6 Wine Co., said “Enough!” and sued the motherfriggin’ PLCB.

While the suit is still moving slowly through the system — the PLCB appealed the ruling of the Commonwealth Court — the implications of PLCB-free wine commerce in the Philly restaurant industry are huge. Because even right now, in 2020, wine delivery is still nonexistent for retailers and restaurants. Right now, there’s still essentially no wholesale discount. Right now, retailers are paying gratuitous fees (and passing the cost on to us).
And a lawsuit like this — which, mind you, has a good chance of succeeding — might very well change all of that.

To-Go Cocktails |
The problems inherent in working within the PLCB’s convoluted systems were only exacerbated when coronavirus came along and shut down our nightlife scene entirely. Something had to give.

On May 21st, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law a piece of legislation that allowed restaurants and bars that had lost at least 25 percent of their average monthly sales due to the pandemic to sell cocktails to-go. Which means that for the first time since Prohibition, you can walk up to a bar in Philadelphia and order some martinis for the road, and nobody — not even a PLCB officer — can stop you from living your life. The to-go-martini kind of life.

Wine Shops! Finally! |
When the PLCB temporarily closed all its stores, these shops stayed open and kept us drinking and drunk during the apocalypse. And they deserve all the attention in the world.

Vernick Wine, 2029 Walnut Street, Rittenhouse

Tinys Bottle Shop, 3124 Richmond Street, Port Richmond

Di Bruno Bros., 9th Street Bottle Shop, 920 South 9th Street, Bella Vista

Fancy Wine Club at Bloomsday, 414 South 2nd Street, Society Hill

Le Caveau, 614 South 7th Street, Bella Vista

Fishtown Social, 1525 Frankford Avenue, Fishtown

Wine Dive, 1506 South Street, Grad Hospital

Jet Wine Bar, 1525 South Street, Grad Hospital