HARRISBURG, PA -- Pennsylvania's Liquor Control Board abruptly shut down the state's wine kiosks last Tuesday, citing persistent mechanical problems -- chief among those problems is the inability to dispense the bottles. A day later, Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner said he will conduct an audit into the matter.
Wagner said his audit would focus on whether the kiosks, which are located in 30 supermarkets across the Keystone state, are delivering the customer convenience and additional revenue to the commonwealth that the LCB touted when it awarded a contract to Simple Brands LLC of Conshohocken, PA. Simple Brands was reportedly the only company to respond to the LCB's 2008 request for proposals.
"The kiosks' breakdown during the height of the holiday shopping season has left customers high and dry, and we want to know why," Wagner said in a prepared statement.
The LCB launched the kiosk program -- the first of its kind in the nation -- to much fanfare last summer, with a test program in two Harrisburg-area supermarkets. An LCB official said in August that the technology, which requires customers to scan their driver's license and pass a Breathalyzer test, was working well. He also said that sales were running 20% to 30% higher than anticipated, according to Wagner.
The program was expanded to include kiosks stationed in 30 supermarkets throughout the state.
LCB officials said Simple Brands is working to identify and correct the mechanical issues and expressed confidence that the machines would be running again early next year.
Under the contract with Simple Brands, the LCB reportedly does not pay for the machines, but the machine manufacturer earns revenue from digital advertising on the kiosk screen.