HARRISBURG PA – Legislation allowing certain stores to sell packages of beer with between 6 and 30 containers each – proposed by state Sen. John Rafferty, the Republican whose 44th state Senatorial District includes Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township, Limerick, and Pottstown – got an added dose of publicity last week thanks to a ruling from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).
The PLCB determined Wednesday (April 28, 2010) that convenience store and gas station operator Sheetz Inc. could again sell beer for on-premise consumption at its Altoona PA location. The announcement has no immediate effect on the company’s stores in Birdsboro PA or elsewhere, although Sheetz officials said they hope it will someday.
It did, however, shine renewed light on Rafferty’s proposal, which would let retailers other than distributors get into the beer sales business. Rafferty advocated reform of beer sales laws in February (2010), when he introduced Senate Bill 1300 to let consumers buy six-packs in grocery and conveniences stores, as well as at distributors. It would also require electronic age verification to ensure minors could not buy alcohol illegally.
The PLCB ruling ended a controversy that began in 2004, when the agency said it would grant Sheetz a license to sell packaged beer in Altoona. At the time, the PLCB indicated Sheetz did not need to sell beer for on-premise consumption. The Malt Beverage Distributors Association (MBDA) filed a lawsuit to stop the Sheetz sales. The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court subsequently revoked Sheetz’s beer license, requiring it to allow customers to drink at the store.
After hearing the PLCB’s determination Wednesday, the company said it has already re-applied for a license for on-premise consumption in Altoona.
“Pennsylvania remains one of a few states that continue to operate under a Prohibition-era set of laws, while millions of people across the United States enjoy the freedom and convenience of purchasing alcohol in convenience and grocery stores,” said Stan Sheetz, president and CEO. “Granting this same freedom to the residents of the Commonwealth is long overdue. We urge our lawmakers to see past state lines and special interest groups and modernize our beer laws.”
For that reason, Sheetz said it continues to support Rafferty’s legislation.
Rafferty’s website contains no reference to the recent decree on Sheetz, but the press release his office distributed in February noted the senator believes “selling beer … in stores gives consumers greater choices,” and that protections in his bill will help to stop sales to minors. “This is a slow transition from an unsafe antiquated system to a new modern system used in 46 other states – and one that Pennsylvania consumers are demanding,” Rafferty said then.
Malt beverage distributors oppose the bill, saying it would weaken Pennsylvania’s “control system for selling alcohol and will result in the loss of thousands of beer distributor jobs.”