PICK A BAR, any bar, and you’ll find a difference of opinion.
Music, chicks, sports, politics, best episode of “The Simpsons” – doesn’t matter, there’s always somebody who doesn’t agree.
Take that World Cup soccer match a couple months ago, Germany vs. Brazil. I remember finding a spot near the TV at Ludwig’s Garten, the Bavarian beer house on Sansom Street. The place was packed tight with guys in lederhosen eating knockwurst. You’d figure the place would be in unanimous support of the Germans.
Damned if half the crowd wasn’t pulling for Ronaldo and the Brazilians.
There is, however, one issue that unites every single human being who ever downed a drop of dew in Pennsylvania. Age, religion, sex or political affiliation, it doesn’t matter. We are all in agreement on one thing:
State Stores suck.
High prices, lousy selection and clerks with the customer-service skills of a near-sighted proctologist. I know, I know, the State Store system is designed to curtail alcohol consumption, not enhance the enjoyment. But if a candidate for governor campaigns on the promise of abolishing State Stores, you’d figure he or she would win in a walk.
Funny thing, that’s exactly what Republican Mike Fisher is promising. He’d sell the State Stores to private industry, to finance public education.
Funnier thing, still: It doesn’t look like the issue will carry him to Harrisburg.
On an autumn afternoon of bar-hopping across town, I couldn’t find a single drinker who’d vote for Fisher. They all hate State Stores, for certain. But Fisher? No way.
“I think State Stores are terrible,” said Roland Sotello, who lives in Northern Liberties. He was sucking down pints at his neighborhood’s Standard Tap with a pal from Lancaster, Jim Jeffries.
“Every other state, you can go to the grocery store seven days a week and buy a bottle of wine. ” Sotello said. “Not here. ”
“I say sell ’em. ”
Jeffries leaned in.
“I agree with Roland. The system would automatically improve. Plus, the state will tax liquor sales if it’s privatized, so it still makes its money. ”
So, who ya voting for?
“Rendell,” said Sotello.
“Me, I’m an Independent,” said Jeffries. “I lean toward Republican. But I think Fisher is a whacko. ”
It was that way across town. Everyone agrees, the State Stores are the enemy of the drinking man. But the candidate who would sell them off can’t expect the drinking man’s vote.
At Buffalo Billiards, a new pool hall/tap room in Old City, Larry Giglio was chowing down on a cheesesteak and fries at the bar. My questions about the State Store system almost made him choke.
“You go to a State Store, you can’t find what you want on the shelf,” Giglio said. “They’re not competitive in price. They’re closed on Sundays. What else? Yeah, you can’t buy wine and beer in the same store. ”
“It’s just a hassle,” he said. “Life should be easier. ”
Would he vote for the one candidate who promises to make it easier?
“I like the idea a lot,” Giglio said. “But I’m not saying I’m for Fisher. I’ll probably go for Rendell. ”
At Ludwig’s Garten, Game 6 of the World Series was on the tube. Half the crowd was pulling for the Giants, the others were grumbling about Barry Bonds.
Jack R. Hilliard, of Mount Airy, was sucking down a glass of Schneider Aventinus, an almost chocolaty brown brew.
“Sell the State Stores!” he pronounced. “If private enterprise is willing to do the job, government shouldn’t be in the business of purveying booze. ”
What’s got Hilliard ticked is the State Stores apparently no longer carry his favorite single-malt Scotch whisky, Cragganmore.
I mention Fisher’s stance, and he grunts.
“Look, you want someone in office who will get out of private enterprise, you vote for Krawchuk. ”
Ken Krawchuk, Libertarian candidate for governor. Of course, the guy doesn’t have a chance.
“That’s what everyone says – the third party candidate never wins,” said Hilliard. “That’s because no one has the b—- to vote for them.
“Well, I’m tired of being scared into a corner. ”
And tired, like all us sippers, of State Stores.