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Harrisburg liquor store is state's biggest loser - abc27 WHTM

Harrisburg liquor store is state's biggest loser

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

It sits in the shadow of the capitol dome, where, ironically the debate rages over privatizing liquor stores.

It is the Wine and Spirits store on Third Street, and it's number one.

First, on the list of worst performing liquor stores in Pennsylvania. It's net loss was $26,815 last year. 

Jan Carson has lived across the street from it for 30 years.

"It's not the busiest store, that's for sure. Everybody goes home at night and goes to the liquor store closest to their home. There aren't that many people here that go over there."

It's not surprising the store fails.

It's a small space with a tiny selection.

It is old and drab. It is a throwback to the old liquor "control" days when the alcohol-buying experience wasn't supposed to be enjoyable.

Liquor Control Board Chairman Skip Brion has been to the place and describes it cheerfully.

"I think its a nice little neighborhood store to help people in this given community. If they want to go out, walk down the street, and get yourself a bottle of wine or a bottle of spirits."

There are 24 stores in the 605-store system that do not turn profits. (York's Yorktowne Mall location is 10th on the list.) Brion says some stores stay open for customer convenience. If they were closed, he says, customers might have to drive 45 minutes or more to get a bottle of booze.

But in the case of Harrisburg's Third and Cumberland store, that's not the case. In fact, drive a few blocks down Third and turn left on Market and there's a beautiful Fine Wine and Good Spirits store. It's basically on the opposite side of the Capitol Complex.

When asked about un-profitable stores remaining in business Wednesday, Governor Corbett re-iterated his support of privatizing the system.

"The private sector can do that much better," Corbett said. "And there's great interest, great interest, by the private sector in getting involved in this."

Brion intimated that Harrisburg's losingest store could be permanently shelved next year.

"That store is being looked at right now. The lease is up in March of 2014, so we have about a year left on that lease."

Neighbors we spoke to didn't seem sad should it ultimately be closed.

"I have no idea why it's not doing any good," said Bill Fritz who lives around the corner. "I don't think it should be subsidized. Anything that's not making money has gotta go."

"What's the point in keeping a place open for business if it's not carrying its own weight at least?" asked William Deeds as he entered a townhouse across the street.

Brion says if you include the 18% markup on the sale of every bottle, every store in the system makes money. And he said 24 stores not turning a profit is an improvement.

"There were about 50 stores a few years ago that weren't making money, now we're down to 24." Proof, he says, that the LCB is turning headed in the right direction.

One personal side note, though Harrisburg store #2202 is in the red, its manager is one of the friendliest and most knowledgeable state store employees I've ever encountered. You can't blame him for the poor performance.

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