Sheetz Fights to ‘Free My Beer’

In one more instance of Sheetz Inc. shaping the playing field, the retailer is taking on the state of Pennsylvania, which currently outlaws beer sales in convenience stores that sell gasoline.

The Sheetz team is spearheading a grassroots effort to bring awareness to what they call  “mind-boggling laws.” The campaign, tagged “Free My Beer,” has urged residents to share their views with legislators and sign a petition in support of a change.

In February, several hundred Sheetz employees traveled to the state capital to help promote change. President and CEO Stan Sheetz addressed the crowd that day, explaining to the media that Sheetz was there as a conduit for its customers.

"Through petitions at our stores and online, we created a way for our customers to talk to their legislators,” Sheetz said. “We heard our customers’ cries of support loud and clear. Customers told us overwhelmingly, ‘Free My Beer!’"

State Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery/Berks/Chester Counties) introduced Senate Bill 1300, which the Sheetz team hopes will bring convenience and increased responsibility to the sale of beer. Sen. Rafferty's bill calls for  “carding" or electronic age verification for all sales, maintaining the current number of licenses, but allowing supermarkets and convenience stores to purchase existing licenses, beefing up enforcement of underage drinking laws and allowing distributors to sell six-packs and 12-packs.

Signatures were collected by members of the Pennsylvania Food Merchant’s Association and the Pennsylvania Convenience Store Council. Then Sheetz presented the signed petitions to Sen. Rafferty at the press conference to show him the level of support he already had for his bill. To date, more than 130,000 Pennsylvania residents have signed the petitions.

“As passionate as I am about Pennsylvania, I am appalled at some of the ridiculous laws still on the books,” the chain’s CEO said earlier this year.

For example, he said, if a "restaurant"  or "eating place"  wants to sell beer or alcohol for take-home consumption, they also must allow customers to drink it on-site. A person cannot buy beer at the same location he buys gasoline, but can drive home from a beer distributor with a case of beer on the front seat. If a food purveyor sells beer or alcohol, he can' not give away a free lunch, but is allowed to give away complimentary food. 

"The rules are mind-boggling, embarrassing and too restrictive,” the retailer said.

The Sheetz executives believe their customers in Pennsylvania should have the right to purchase beer in safe, convenient settings.
“We are in the business of convenience,” Sheetz told Convenience Store News. “If our customers want the ability to purchase beer in a more convenient setting, such as ours, we intend to stand up for them and their rights so they can do just that. We support Senator Rafferty’s bill because it treats adults like adults and protects their rights as beer drinkers!"

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