The Brief: This Is Why Your Artisanal Cocktail Costs $13

Plus: a preview of the August special elections, and even super PAC consultants don't like super PACs.

1. The cost of liquor licenses in Philadelphia is skyrocketing.

The gist: Michael Klein reports for that the price of a liquor license in Philadelphia is up to about $120,000, or about 40 percent higher than the going rate just two years ago. Klein attributes that to the city’s restaurant boom, and the artificially tight supply of liquor licenses. Writes Klein:

Many restaurateurs consider a liquor license to be essential, as alcohol sales are far more profitable than food. Liquor licenses are governed by the state Liquor Control Board but are sold by restaurateurs on the open market through lawyers or brokers, and that’s where basic economics comes in.

There are simply no licenses available, according to three local lawyers who specialize in liquor licenses.

Why it matters: Believe it or not, liquor licenses in Philadelphia have been a relative bargain compared to other Pennsylvania municipalities, and to the prices paid by restaurateurs in other states. So it’s unlikely that the spike in Philadelphia prices will deter many new establishments from opening. Still: that’s an awfully high bar to clear for a lot of those operating beneath the Starr/Garces/Vetri tier. And this seems like a good opportunity to point readers to Jim Saksa’s excellent breakdown of the absurdity of liquor laws across the U.S. (Pennsylvania features prominently) from a year ago in Slate. Wrote Saksa:

Besides a shared historical genesis [prohibition], however, these rum rules share another critical feature: They make a lot of money for specific groups of people.

All regulations have the ability to create winners and losers, and this phenomenon is particularly potent in potables. Economists noticed that the winners often are a concentrated group, such as beer wholesalers, whereas the losers—consumers, usually—are diffuse. Our beers are a bit pricier, our choices a bit constrained, and we might need to visit more than one kind of store to stock up for a party, but these costs are barely noticeable to all but the most tightfisted of tipplers. Yet all those little costs add up to princely sums for today’s booze barons, motivating them to defend the lucrative status quo through lobbyists and political donations.

Who’s up for another round of infuriating debate over privatizing the state-run liquor stores?

2. Not even Super PAC consultants like super PACs.

The gist: Katie Colaneri has a terrific, thorough look at the mixed record of super PACs in the mayoral primary for Newsworks. This one is a must-read for anyone hoping to understand the entirely-new local electoral terrain. She scored interviews with key figures in the two central super PAC efforts, including political consultant Bill Hyers, who was a consultant with Forward Philadelphia, the big-spending pro-Jim Kenney super PAC. Hyers, it turns out, “doesn’t love” super PACs. Writes Colaneri:

“We had to put out positive Kenney ads … and we had to understand what his message was and put it out for him without his approval, which is a nerve-wracking thing because we wanted him to win,” he said.

Hyers had the advantage of having worked closely in the past with several of Kenney’s staffers, including Snyder, campaign manager Jane Slusser and communications director Lauren Hitt. Although, once he entered the world of independent expenditures, Hyers had to send them all a note.

“You can’t talk to me,” he reminded them, an experience he described as “weird and sad.”

One of the only ways to “communicate across the wall,” Snyder said, was for Hitt to put out multiple press releases a day meant not just for the eyes of the media, but also to send a message to outside groups.

It paid off.

“There’s no way we go from 14 points down [in the polls] to 14 points up the day we started advertising without the work that the [independent expenditures] did,” Snyder said.

Colaneri also talked to attorney Mark Alderman, a key figure in the American Cities super PAC, which spent more than $5 million in support of Anthony Williams. She writes:

Perhaps one reason American Cities’ money failed to move voters is that it is an ideological PAC, devoted not just to a candidate, but also to a cause: expanding charter schools and vouchers.

“The amount of money that went into this race was driven by the commitment to advocate for the kids of Philadelphia who are stuck in violent failing schools,” said the group’s attorney Mark Alderman. “And the advocacy was every bit as much about school choice and those kids as it was about Sen. Williams and his campaign.”

Why it matters: Like it or not, it looks like super PACs are here to stay. Getting a better handle on how super PACs work, and the different motivations that drive them, is key for anyone hoping to understand the new state of play in city politics.

3. Candidates, including Councilman Ed Neilson, are lining up to fill an array of vacancies in the state House.

The gist: Writing for the Inquirer, Chris Brennan has the early word on the candidates vying to fill three (and counting) open Philadelphia seats in the House. Brennan reports that at-large Councilman Ed Neilson, who lost his Council re-election bid in the May Democratic primary, was endorsed by Northeast Democratic ward leaders to fill the 174th seat vacated by John Sabatina Jr., who won a special election (also last mont) to fill the seat held by now-Lt. Gov. Mike Stack. (Pause for air).

And what about those seats vacated by disgraced state representatives caught up in the Tryon Ali sting case?

Brennan writes:

Frank Oliver, Democratic leader of the 29th Ward, who was a state representative in the 195th from 1973 to 2010, said he and his fellow ward leaders on Wednesday nominated Donna Bullock as their candidate in the 195th. Bullock, a lawyer, works as special assistant to Council President Darrell L. Clarke.

State Sen. Anthony H. Williams, who leads the Third Ward in West Philadelphia, said ward leaders Wednesday night selected Joanna McClinton as the Democratic candidate in the 191st. She is a lawyer who works on Williams’ Senate staff.

Why it matters: The August 11 special election is right around the corner, and it represents an opportunity to elect some strong, new voices to a delegation that badly needs it. These contests are worth some attention folks.

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