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Issue Date: Vol. 51, No. 8, August 2011, Posted On: 8/9/2011

Pennsylvania May Shut Down Wine Kiosks, Says Operator Owes $1M

Emily Jed
Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Simple Brands LLC, wine vending machine, wine vender, vending machine, vending, automatic retailing, wine kiosk, Wegmans

HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania's Liquor Control Board may end its supermarket wine-vending experiment amid a dispute with the operator of the machines, which the agency says owes the state almost $1 million.

LCB officials reportedly notified Simple Brands of Conshohocken, PA, in early August that it had 45 days to pay the agency its outstanding debt before it would force the venders to be shut down. There are currently some 30 wine kiosks in Pennsylvania supermarkets, all of which are manufactured and operated by Simple Brands.

Simple Brands said it disagrees with the charge, and has accused the agency of incurring unnecessary expenses and billing them to Simple Brands.

The wine-vending program, which began last summer, suffered mechanical problems and was shut down by the liquor board on Dec. 21 as a result. Simple Brands identified and resolved the issues, and the machines returned to service in February.

Wegmans Food Markets, which had 10 machines, pulled out of the program in June. Machine malfunctions persisted and led to a significant number of customer complaints, the supermarket chain said.

In May, LCB officials said they were planning to pilot hard liquor alongside wine in some of the kiosks. They also announced plans to expand the wine-vending program to more sites, including 24 Walmart locations slated to roll out kiosks this summer.

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