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Sheetz Inc. may resume selling beer at its Altoona, Pa., store after a state Supreme Court ruling Tuesday lifted a temporary stay on sales issued by the Commonwealth Court. The Supreme Court also said it would hear the state's appeal of a lower court ruling that halted beer sales in February, according to the Altoona Mirror.
As a result, Sheetz will again sell beer at this location -- following a six-month hiatus -- after the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board reviews the Supreme Court order and issues a license.
"This is about our customers and their convenience," said Mike Cortez, Sheetz vice president and general counsel. "Our customers would like to buy beer at a convenient place. We believe the PLCB was correct in granting our license."
The court order follows a protracted fight over the PLCB's issuing an eating place malt license to Ohio Springs Inc., a company related to Sheetz, according to the report.
"The Liquor Control Board is grateful that the Supreme Court has decided to hear this appeal. The board continues to believe that the liquor code grants licensees a right to sell alcohol but does not impose a duty on licensees to sell alcohol," PLCB Chairman P.J. Stapleton said in a written statement.
According to the report, the PLCB conditionally issued the license in 2004 but held it in safekeeping until February when the first sales started at the store. The Malt Beverages Distributors Association of Pennsylvania fought the issuing of the license and took it to Commonwealth Court.
The court's lifting of the stay against beer sales doesn't indicate which way it will ultimately rule, according to attorney Robert B. Hoffman, legal counsel for the Malt Beverages Distributors Association of Pennsylvania, which filed the lawsuit to stop beer sales.
The Commonwealth Court halted beer sales Feb. 23 after hearing arguments from the liquor control board and the distributors. The court's decision could force eating place licensees to sell beer for onsite consumption, something Sheetz officials said they weren't willing to do.
Beer sales resumed after the PLCB appealed to the Supreme Court on Feb. 28. The distributors then successfully asked the Commonwealth Court to stop sales for a second time until the appeal was heard.
"If allowed to stand, the Commonwealth Court's decision could compromise the board's longstanding mission of controlling the sale of alcohol in Pennsylvania by imposing new duties on thousands of holders of eating place malt beverage and restaurant licenses in Pennsylvania," said Stapleton, board chairman.
Pennsylvania is the only state where Sheetz does not sell alcoholic beverages. The chain has 192 stores in the state; a little less than half the entire chain has legal permission to sell alcoholic beverages.