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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Convenience store retailers could soon get in on the action when it comes to selling liquor at their Pennsylvania stores. For the past several decades, customers could only buy liquor from state-run locations.
Pennsylvania's House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Pittsburgh, unveiled a state bill that would phase out the 621 state-run liquor stores and auction off 1,250 retail liquor licenses, according to the The Times-Tribune.
If passed, the bill would call for the auction of 750 Class A licenses to big retailers and grocery stores with more than 15,000 square feet of retail space. Five hundred Class B licenses would be granted to independent entrepreneurs, including c-stores, gourmet wine shops and other specialty stores. Licenses would be granted based on market need and population density, the report stated.
Beer distributors would also be allowed to bid on the liquor licenses. If their bids are successful, they could sell beer and wine at the same location.
Turzai said the main goal of the bill is to get the Pennsylvania government out of the business of selling liquor. He anticipates the state can earn as much as $2 billion in revenue from the license auctions.
As CSNews reported last year, Sheetz has been fighting a separate but related law that prohibits beer sales in Pennsylvania c-stores that also sell gasoline. The Altoona, Pa-based chain called the law "mind-boggling" and established a "Free My Beer" campaign, which urges residents to share their views with legislators and sign a petition in support of changing the law.
In February 2010, several hundred Sheetz employees traveled to the state capital, located here, to help promote the change. CEO Stan Sheetz addressed the crowd that day.
"We are in the business of convenience," Sheetz told CSNews Online in 2010. "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."
Despite support from Pennsylvania State Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery/Berks/Chester Counties, Sheetz and other retailers who also sell petroleum cannot sell beer. The campaign continues, however, with petitions available at www.freemybeer.com.