PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The state Senate held its third and final hearing Tuesday on a variety of plans to privatize part or all of the state’s wine and spirits business.

It comes after the state House of Representatives passed a bill last March that would gradually sell off the state’s 600 wine and spirits stores to private licensees — with a first priority to beer distributors — and also allow grocery stores to sell wine and take-out beer.

Nobody believes the bill that passed the House will pass the Senate.

In fact, the Senate bill is going to be very, very different.

Under one plan, state stores would continue to operate — but beer distributors, taverns and restaurants could also sell wine and spirits.

Lindenwood Beer is a family-owned distributor operating in Castle Shannon for more than 50 years. Owner Kevin Kelly says he’d have to expand his current space or move, but he’d look at selling hard liquor and wine.

“To survive in this economy and stuff like that, you have to have the availability of what the customers are looking for,” Kelly told KDKA political editor Jon Delano, “especially the out of town customers who come in for the holidays and they’re used to buying it that way where they live and they’re looking for the same opportunities here.”

But nothing is clear in the Senate right now with so many competing groups — distributors, taverns, grocery stores, convenience stores, private companies and even pharmacies — all wanting a piece of the action.

Kelly is optimistic that Harrisburg will enact something to change the current system.

“If not this year, then next year, that’s for sure,” he adds, hopefully.

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