By Nicole Ford

PITTSBURGH, PA (KDKA) – Where alcohol can be sold is a topic of conversation that has continued in Pennsylvania for years.

“Now is the time to bring it into the 21st century,” said Rep. Tim O’Neal from Washington County.

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Until a few years ago, you couldn’t walk into a Giant Eagle to get any alcohol. Now most locations sell some beer or wine, but when the liquor stores closed during the pandemic, business took a hit.

“For us being right here on the border of West Virginia and Ohio we saw plenty of our residents cross the border to buy liquor during the pandemic,” O’Neal said.

According to O’Neal, Pennsylvania has the second strictest liquor laws in the country. It’s a concept that has left people wondering why for years.

“How many other states you can already buy it in gas stations? You can buy it in Target or a grocery store, it makes more sense,” said Danieka Suggs.

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A new house bill sponsored by O’Neal could put Pennsylvania on that same playing field. It’s an expansion to Act 39 in 2016 that allows grocery stores and convenience stores to sell beer and wine.

“The concept is do the same thing with spirits in order to expand the market and create convenience for customers,” O’Neal said.

He told KDKA the proposal expands the options without eliminating jobs so it could lead to an increase in taxes with more sales. The phrase from the residents we talked to is “it’s about time.”

“There is a liquor store close to us but it closes at 7, and a grocery store closes at 9:30 or 10, so if I know I need to go on a late liquor run, I have to do it early in the day and a grocery store is just open later,” Suggs said.

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O’Neal said he hopes to talk with the House Liquor Control Committee Chair next week about the bill.