supreme court to hear sheetz argument

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear a case on whether convenience and grocery stores can sell beer without also allowing customers to drink in the store. The issue arose in February when a Commonwealth Court ruled 4-3 that Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz could sell take-out beer only if patrons could also drink the beer at the store.

Originally, Sheetz had received a license from the state Liquor Control Board (LCB), which was challenged by the Malt Beverage Distributors Association, a trade association that represents hundreds of beer distributors in the state. Its argument is that grocery and convenience stores will emerge as unfair competition, Robert B. Hoffman, the association’s attorney, told the Patriot-News.

The Sheetz case is expected to set a precedent for the sale of beer in convenience stores statewide. Company officials said the chain—and its customers—will be affected by the ruling.

“The reason we’re happy is because this has always been for us a matter of convenience for our customers,” Mike Cortez, Sheetz vice president and general counsel, told the newspaper. “We’re happy to have the opportunity to make that argument for our customers.”

LCB Chairman Patrick “P.J.” Stapleton III said the agency welcomed the chance to argue the case.

“The Liquor Control Board is grateful that the Supreme Court has decided to hear this appeal,” Stapleton said in a statement. “The board continues to believe that the liquor code grants licensees a right to sell alcohol but does not impose a duty to sell alcohol.”

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