By Peter Hall
Of the Legal Staff
The state Supreme Court has ruled that a Western Pennsylvania convenience store chain does not meet the state Liquor Code's requirements to sell six packs of beer for take out.
The 5-1 decision in Malt Beverages Distributors Association v. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is the end of the line for Sheetz, one of two Pennsylvania retailers that ventured into the realm of beer and malt beverage sales. Until recently, the sale of beer in quantities less than a keg or a case was the exclusive domain of neighborhood taverns and pizza shops or other restaurants.
Under Pennsylvania's liquor law, a retail dispenser may sell up to two six-packs of beer per customer for take out if they serve hot food and have a dining area. The Altoona-based Sheetz chain began selling beer at its gas station convenience stores after adding an in-store restaurant to satisfy the requirements of the liquor code.
Sheetz, however, did not allow patrons to drink beer on the premises. In a challenge to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's licensing decision, the Commonwealth Court in February 2007 ruled Sheetz could not sell beer because by prohibiting consumption on the premises, it does not meet the definition of a retail dispenser. Justice Max Baer, writing for the Supreme Court majority, affirmed that decision. Justice Debra Todd filed a concurring opinion. Justice J. Michael Eakin dissented.
Wegmans, a Rochester, N.Y.-based grocery store chain, also began selling beer for take out or for consumption in its "Market Cafe" restaurant. The beer distributors association has said it will appeal a March decision by the Commonwealth Court upholding the PLCB decision to allow the supermarket to sell six packs.
- Read more about the decision online Tuesday and in Wednesday's Legal.