RIP Pennsylvania wine kiosks

HARRISBURG, PA -- The shaky year-long experiment with wine kiosk vending mchines in the commonwealth is over.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has ended the trial because of a financial dispute with the contractor. Monday was the final day to resolve the dispute with contractor Simple Brands LLC and keep the machines operating.

Board CEO Joe Conti said he cannot foresee the program being revived. The board maintains that Simple Brands owes the state about $1 million, but the company disputes that stance. Instead, it says, the liquor board had incurred unnecessary expenses and "improperly" billed the company. Simple Brands is seeking $81 million from the agency for breach of contract.

The machines began operation in several markets last summer, but ran into mechanical problems almost immediately. Both Wal-mart and Wegmans pulled out of agreements to host the machines, citing "mechanical concerns" and too many customer complaints.

"I think it was a great attempt to try to do something for the convenience of our customers," Conti said. "It didn't end up successful, but we learned a lot. We will be better for it, and listen, we had thousands of buyers who predominantly were happy with the convenience when they bought a bottle of wine through these kiosks."

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