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For Wine With Groceries, Take A Breath Test

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For Wine With Groceries, Take A Breath Test

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For Wine With Groceries, Take A Breath Test

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Buying wine in Pennsylvania may get a little easier over the next few months -that's if you consider two rounds of identity verification and a breathalyzer test easier.

Scott Detrow of member station WITF in Harrisburg explains.

SCOTT DETROW: Pennsylvania has some of the strictest liquor laws in the country. Wine and hard alcohol are only sold in state-owned stores, and customers can buy beer in bulk only from licensed beer distributors.

So, Nina Yochum was excited and surprised by the tall, glass display case of wine when she walked into a grocery store just outside of Harrisburg this week. It's one of two automated wine kiosks Pennsylvania's Liquor Control Board is testing out as a way to sell wine in grocery stores.

Ms. NINA YOCHUM: It just seems like kind of an interesting idea. I mean, you don't have a big selection, but you do have a selection.

Unidentified Woman: Swipe your payment card through the card reader as shown in the video.

DETROW: The machines cost around $100,000 each and are made by Pennsylvania company Simple Brands. But Pennsylvania liquor officials need to make sure purchasers are over 21 and sober. In order to buy wine, you need to swipe your driver's license into the machine, and then wait as a state employee sitting in a central office verifies your identity through a remote camera.

Ms. YOCHUM: Oh, my gosh. I didn't see that. Oh, that's really interesting.

DETROW: And then you take a breathalyzer test.

Unidentified Woman: You are required to perform a test to measure your breath-alcohol concentration. Please take a deep breath and blow firmly into the breath alcohol sensor as shown in the video.

DETROW: Anyone with breath alcohol content over .02 is denied. That's low enough that a sign warns customers they may not pass if they have used mouthwash within the past half-hour.

After buying her bottle of white wine, Yochum decides she won't be a repeat customer.

Ms. YOCHUM: I've never gone through so much trouble for a bottle of wine before. I don't know. I don't know if this is going to go over or not. I mean, it's...


Ms. YOCHUM:'s kind of a hassle.

DETROW: Paul Boyer agrees. He cautiously eyes the kiosk while Yochum pries open the door and reaches up to the top shelf to retrieve her bottle.

Mr. PAUL BOYER: Why don't you just put it out on the shelves like all the other states? We always have to do something a little bizarre.

DETROW: Liquor Control Board officials say the kiosks are a way to modernize the state's wine sales without getting rid of state-owned liquor stores. The two kiosks have each sold about 80 bottles a day since they were introduced last month.

If the Harrisburg area test run goes well, Pennsylvania will begin rolling out the kiosks at grocery stores across the state. By late September, there could be up to 100 machines, each selling 53 varieties of wine at prices ranging from six to $22.

For NPR News, I'm Scott Detrow in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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