Wednesday, June 23, 2010
If all goes well with a couple of beta test machines, wine drinkers in Pittsburgh will be able to buy a bottle or two from a vending machines this fall. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) today began operating two self-service wine kiosks located at grocery stores in Dauphin and Cumberland counties. PLCB Chairman P.J. Stapleton says the performance of the machines will be evaluated in the next 30-45 days and if there are no problems they will start the rollout of 98 more machines statewide. The 40-square-foot machines will operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, offering as many as 53 types of wine stored at 62 degrees F. Stapleton says they will range from about $10.00 a bottle to about $20.00 a bottle. The machines created by Simple Brands LLC of Conshohocken, PA will ask the purchaser to swipe their drivers licenses and then look at a high definition camera to allow a worker at a call center to verify identity of the purchaser. The customer will also have to blow on a screen housing a Breathalyzer. If a breath alcohol level of .02 or higher is detected, the consumer will be unable to make a purchase. All of the machines will be placed in grocery stores but Stapleton says the final list of locations has not yet been determined. “Consumers are yearning for additional consumer convenience,” says Stapleton, “Customers are going to local supermarkets to pick up a couple of great steaks and bring them home for dinner and now they can bring home a cabernet to have with them.” Pennsylvania is the only state using such machines.
The union that represents the state store employees has weighed in against the machines. Independent State Store Union spokesperson Ed Cloonan says, "Cigarettes are banned from being sold in vending machines in Pennsylvania supermarkets and yet Americans' number one drug of choice will now be vended only in Pennsylvania by the PLCB." Cloonan calls the wine kiosks “Rube Goldberg-like contraptions.” The Independent State Store Union has filed suit in Commonwealth Court to stop the placement of wine vending machines in grocery stores. "Alcohol is not a Red Box DVD - it is the most abused drug in every town, city and state in the USA," says David Wanamaker, Vice-President of ISSU.