Pennsylvania maintains a Prohibition-era system of control on the sale of alcoholic beverages, known in the Keystone State as the "state stores" system. Wine and liquor, but not beer, are sold through state-run liquor stores. The system provides a bounty of revenue for the state, but has drawn complaints that it limits competition because there are no independent liquor stores in the state, and also keeps prices relatively high. Out-of-state vineyards and wine brokers must also acquire a special permit to mail wine to customers.
Review the state's rules and procedures. The state imposes numerous rules and requirements on shippers, and a wine-selling business should review these rules before proceeding. To find these rules and an application packet, go to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's (PLCB) website at plcb.state.pa.us. Click "For Licensees" on the left side. Then click "Direct Shipping." At the bottom of that page, click "How to Become a Direct Shipper." Click "Terms and Conditions" to review the state's requirements. On the Terms and Conditions page, click "Appendix A" for an overview of the process. Reading these instructions may save you some time; the state prohibits direct wine shippers from selling wine already available in state stores.
Fill out an application and other paperwork. In addition to an application listing your business's address and other information, the state requires certification that you do not owe sales taxes in Pennsylvania. You must fill out this certification, but the PLCB will conduct research to determine if taxes are owed by you or any business partners. There are also other requirements, found in the Terms and Conditions section of the state's website. Among them, a licensee's website must provide several disclaimers and warn buyers against providing alcohol to minors. A licensee must also maintain a database of the state's wine catalog to ensure that the shippers are not selling wine that is already available in state stores.
Find a licensed transporter. Pennsylvania requires a license for businesses that transport alcohol in the state. This goes for wine shipments, which, when shipped to Pennsylvania state stores, must be labeled as alcoholic beverages. For small businesses, the well-known carriers, like UPS, are licensed transporters.
Test your system. After you have received your license, the state requires a business to send in a test invoice to its system, in a comma-delimited file. This invoice will test whether a business has the technical capability to comply with the state's standards. After receiving the test transaction, the state will list the licensee on its website to conduct business.
In addition to these steps to getting a license, shippers face ongoing requirements. Among them is the requirement to file an annual report. They also must remit collected taxes, which can total about 25 percent of the cost.
- Maria Toutoudaki/Photodisc/Getty Images