Feb 28, 2022 - News

Pennsylvania bans Russian-made spirits from state-run stores

Bottles of Russian Standard Vodka seen on the shelf of a store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Bottles of Russian Standard Vodka seen on the shelf of a store. Photo: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto/Getty

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) ordered the removal of Russian spirits from state-run liquor stores on Sunday following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Why it matters: The PLCB is one of the largest buyers of wines and spirits in the nation.

  • The agency regulates the manufacture, importation, sale and distribution of all alcohol in the state, and oversees nearly 600 Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores.

Driving the news: All Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores and license service centers in Pennsylvania must immediately remove Russian-made products from their shelves as of Sunday, according to the PLCB.

  • Special order products from Russia also will be banned.
  • "Given the evolving political-economic climate, it's just the right thing to do," PLCB chairman Tim Holden said in a news release.

Between the lines: The move came hours after Gov. Tom Wolf urged the PLCB's three-member board in a letter to ban the sale of Russian spirits in state-run liquor stores.

  • Wolf said in his letter the ban would represent a "small show of solidarity and support for the people of Ukraine, and an expression of our collective revulsion with the unprovoked actions of the Russian state."

The big picture: Pennsylvania joined a growing number of states that have taken action in response to Russia's military waging a massive, unprovoked assault on Ukraine.

  • The governors of New Hampshire and Utah have issued executive orders to immediately ban the sale of Russian-made and branded spirits from stores.

Zoom in: The PLCB has identified only two Russian-sourced products stocked on state store shelves — Russian Standard and Ustianochka 80-proof vodkas — and five additional spirits available through special orders, agency spokesperson Shawn Kelly told Axios.

  • Those Russian products accounted for less than $1.1 million in sales during the past year — or .06% of the more than $1.7 billion spirits sales in the state.
  • "Many consumers often associate vodka with Russia, so some producers give their vodkas Russian-themed monikers and marketing. Few products carried by Fine Wine & Good Spirits are actually sourced from Russia, however," Kelly said.
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