Pa. Liquor Control Board Launches Wine Kiosk Pilot at Giant, Wegmans Stores

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Pa. Liquor Control Board Launches Wine Kiosk Pilot at Giant, Wegmans Stores

A Giant Food Store and Wegmans supermarket are part of a self-service wine kiosk pilot launched this week by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) in Dauphin and Cumberland counties.

The kiosks, located in the Harrisburg Giant Food and at a Wegmans Food Market in Mechanicsburg, are part of the PLCB’s mission to provide greater customer service and convenience to consumers. Both will operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They will be closed on Sundays and certain holidays.

“The self-service kiosks are an exciting new opportunity for consumers to pick up their groceries and a bottle of their favorite wine to complement their dinner, all in one stop," said board chairman Patrick J. “PJ” Stapleton. “While our PLCB stores continue to provide excellent customer service and a wider variety of products, the kiosks are a way to give our customers an added level of convenience in today’s busy society.”

Using technologies developed by Simple Brands, LLC of Conshohocken, the kiosks stock a variety of popular Pennsylvania wines at optimal temperatures and provide detailed information for shoppers.

The kiosks also feature technology to assure full compliance with the PLCB’s strict measures to prevent sales to underage or intoxicated purchasers. The buyer’s driver’s license is inserted into the kiosk, where age information on the bar code is processed. The photograph on the license is matched with a video image of the buyer at the kiosk. A PLCB employee monitors each transaction from a remote location and confirms that the video of the purchaser matches the purchaser’s ID.

Additionally, the kiosks have a built-in breathalyzer that requires no contact with the device and provides an instantaneous reading to ensure the buyer isn’t under the influence. If a breath alcohol level of .02 percent or higher is detected, the consumer will be unable to make a purchase. The entire process takes less than 20 seconds.

“While the technology is promising, and we’re eager to introduce the kiosks across the state, we first need to complete stringent tests during this pilot phase in a controlled environment to make sure it’s safe and secure,” said Stapleton. “It will also give us the opportunity to hear consumer feedback in an effort to make the kiosks the most positive experience possible.”

If the pilot proves successful, the program will be expanded to as many as 100 supermarket locations across Pennsylvania, as part of the PLCB’s multifaceted effort to enhance customer convenience.

Not everybody is happy with the new technology, however. The Independent State Store Union (ISSU) said it opposes the introduction of wine vending machines in Pennsylvania, characterizing the kiosk as a “Rube Goldberg-like contraption.”

“Cigarettes are banned from being sold in vending machines in Pennsylvania supermarkets, and yet Americans’ No. 1 drug of choice will now be vended only in Pennsylvania by the PLCB,” said Ed Cloonan, information director for ISSU, the Harrisburg-based union representing state store managers in 67 counties in Pennsylvania.