Changes Coming to PLCB SLO Program

There are some upcoming changes to the PLCB Special Liquor Order (SLO) program that PA wine consumers should be aware of.

For those unfamiliar with SLO, it is the system that allows licensees (restaurants and other establishments with a license to sell alcohol) to purchase wine and liquor that’s not sold in PLCB stores directly from the distributor (or supplier). Though it is currently a small percentage of SLO sales, consumers also have access to this service.

Anyway, beginning on October 1st — or whenever the PLCB implements the change after that date — consumers will be able to order SLO items online. Though they’re already listed on the website (see above), we’ll now be able to actually complete an order online, with shipping to the FWaGS store of our choice.

In addition, minimum quantity restrictions are no longer allowed on SLO. In the past, suppliers could specify a minimum order – often a full case – but now they are required to fill any order, even just one bottle. (This rule actually went into place in January, but the addition of ecommerce makes it more relevant.)

In sum, this has the potential to be an exciting development for PA wine consumers, expanding the selection greatly for wines that can be purchased online and picked up in store.

So what’s the catch?

Like most PLCB improvements, there’s a catch. In this case, it more directly affects the distributors, but in the end may also impact consumers as well.

Specifically related to SLO, it is this minimum quantity issue that may cause problems. Setting it to 12 offered some protection for the supplier from the cost of small orders. Now, a distributor based in Philadelphia might have to ship a single bottle to Pittsburgh — which could cost $15-20 — but can only charge a maximum of $3 for freight. This could be particularly devastating for a small company.

The PLCB’s response to this issue? Incorporate possible shipping into the bottle cost. Right. So suppliers are going to now charge $40 for a $25 bottle? Even to restaurants? Doubtful.

What suppliers are doing, to protect themselves from this issue, is setting their SLO items up as “Licensee Only,” meaning restaurants can buy them but consumers cannot. If many suppliers do this, of course, for us it means a more limited selection.

Time will tell how it all plays out.

In the meantime, review the full list of SLO law changes. Or check out Philly.com’s overview of the changes that affect restaurants.

And let us know how you fare ordering SLO in October!

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