Partnership between Garces and state liquor board ignites charge of favoritism

    A new Pennsylvania program that allows state liquor stores to open inside selected restaurants is getting heat from the industry.

    The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has started to open boutique wine shops inside of BYOBs.

    A restaurant lobbying group and the state legislature are trying to squash that program.

    Celebrity chef Jose Garces’ newest venture is an upscale delicatessen and bakery on Locust Street. Inside the BYO restaurant is a glass door that opens to a boutique wine shop run by the state of Pennsylvania. It’s the only such arrangement in the state.

    Both the state House and Senate passed a bill that would ban the state’s alcohol regulators from creating any more similar arrangements, saying the ready availability of wine is unfair to other restaurants.

    “What happened in this case is the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board hand-selected a business to put a state-run boutique wine shop on premise,” says Patrick Conway, the president of the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association. “But the restaurants across the street, whether they’re BYO establishments or, even more so, those that have purchased a liquor license – they’re competing directly with this business and yet they’re not being given the same consideration to have the same type of operation.”

    But Governor Rendell says the PLCB should be encouraged to create innovative marketing and retail partnerships. He vetoed the bill that would have banned the practice.

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