Pa. Liquor Control Board Appeals Sheetz' Ruling

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Pa. Liquor Control Board Appeals Sheetz' Ruling

ALTOONA, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board filed an appeal against a court decision made last week that revoked takeout beer sales at the Sheetz convenience restaurant, located here, The Associated Press reported.

Board spokeswoman, Dawn Petrosky, told the AP it wanted the State Supreme court to review the decision made in the Commonwealth Court. The convenience store was granted the "retail dispenser" license after it separated the restaurant section from the rest of the business with a dividing wall.

The court ruled that the license issued by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) required that some of the beer sold at the location be consumed on the premises. However, the convenience chain did not have plans to allow on-premise consumption of its beverages.

"An entity that is licensed for on-premises consumption is given the additional benefit of selling beverages for off-premises consumption," wrote Judge Robert Simpson for the majority. He added that the state's law "makes the right to conduct sales for off-premises consumption secondary to the primary purpose of selling malt or brewed beverages for on-premises consumption at the eating place."

The court ruled 4-3 against what Sheetz Inc. president Stan Sheetz called a "three-year journey to sell beer to our customers in Pennsylvania."

"The board believes the liquor code grants licensees a right to sell alcohol, but it has never interpreted the code to impose a duty on licensees to sell alcohol," Patrick "P. J." Stapleton, control board chairman said in a written statement. "Such a requirement runs counter to a system that is designed to control -- and not promote -- the sale of alcohol."

All licensees that operate under the liquor control board's interpretation of the liquor code could be subject to citation for failure to follow the court's interpretation, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. The ruling does not only affect the Sheetz location in Altoona, Pa., but hundreds of other retailers across the state that hold similar licenses.

If left unchallenged, the court ruling could be a basis to impose similar sales requirements for establishments on other types of licenses, the control board stated.

The chain planned to resume beer sales at the store as soon as the appeal was filed, Sheetz vice president and general counsel Mike Cortez told the AP.

"We've been without sales for a few days, and I can tell you that based on the sales before the suspension, our customers really like the convenience," he said. "So I can assume that they're going to be happy that the sales have resumed."

Bob Hoffman, a lawyer for the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania, which issued the lawsuit, said that the association plans to ask the Supreme Court to keep the suspension active while the appeal takes place, the report stated.