The University of Pennsylvania Has a Drinking Problem

With Penn cracking down on student drinking, the closing of the 41st and Market state store may be more than mere coincidence.

A WEEK AFTER Leong’s email, my daughter forwarded me her invitation from the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives in the Division of the Vice Provost for University Life to participate in Penn’s 13th Annual Alcohol, Other Drug and Wellness Survey. (Whew!) It was anonymous, the invite noted, and you could win Spring Fling tickets if you took part. “I wish they’d just reopen the damned state store,” Marcy said.

I’d never heard of a state store closing. The two in the hometown I moved away from 40 years ago are still right where I left them. So I called the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and asked spokeswoman Stacey Witalec what happened to the one at 41st and Market. She cited problems with the landlord and physical concerns with the store as the reasons it had been shuttered, and said it wasn’t a decision the LCB had wanted to make. It wasn’t one I’d wanted the LCB to make, either, I told her, since I was now stuck driving my daughter to 24th and South every week or so. She said cheerfully, “Tell her she’ll be really happy with the new store when it opens!”

“There’s going to be a new store? Where?”

Stacey said she didn’t know yet, but it would be one of the new Premium Collection stores. Had I ever been to a Premium Collection store? I allowed as how I didn’t think I had.

Stacey told me the LCB had worked with the New York City firm of Landor Associates to “rebrand” the state stores. Eventually, all the stores will be completely redone, from floor to ceiling. There will be information stations at central checkout islands. All the shelving will be redone.

“What about the lighting?” I wanted to know. There’s something particularly gruesome about state-store lighting.

“It’s green,” Stacey said, and I started to respond: Exactly! The lighting is green! But then she added, “It’s all environmentally friendly LED lighting now. You really should visit a Premium Collection store.”

Instead, I visited the website of Landor Associates, “a strategic brand consulting and design firm.” Among the clients it lists are Land Rover, Citroën, the NFL, Barclay’s Bank, Xbox, the City of Hong Kong, Rolex, Moët & Chandon and the San Diego Zoo. No mention of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. I couldn’t help wondering why the LCB hired a ritzy strategic brand consulting and design firm when there’s no other fucking place to buy a bottle of hooch in the entire state.