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ALTOONA, Pa. -- A "retail dispenser" license allowing a Sheetz store in Altoona, Pa. to sell alcoholic beverages was revoked after a Commonwealth Court ruled the license was not being used properly, The Associated Press reported.
The convenience store was granted the license after it separated the restaurant section from the rest of the business with a dividing wall. The court ruled 4-3 against what Sheetz Inc. president Stan Sheetz called a "three-year journey to sell beer to our customers in Pennsylvania."
He added in a written statement: "This is yet another set back in our effort to provide the freedom to purchase alcoholic beverages in a convenience setting."
The license that was issued by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) required that some of the beer sold at the location be consumed on the premises. However, the convenience chain did not have plans to allow on-premise consumption of its beverages.
"An entity that is licensed for on-premises consumption is given the additional benefit of selling beverages for off-premises consumption," wrote Judge Robert Simpson for the majority. He added that the state's law "makes the right to conduct sales for off-premises consumption secondary to the primary purpose of selling malt or brewed beverages for on-premises consumption at the eating place."
"Sadly, this decision highlights the complexity of the Commonwealth's current liquor laws and the need for court intervention just to interpret them," said president Sheetz in a written statement. "It is our intent to get back into the beer business in Pennsylvania as soon as possible. The legal issues involved here are numerous and complicated, and until further analysis is conducted, we are unable to state our plan of action at this time."
No decision about an appeal has been made, said Mike Cortez, Sheetz's vice president and general counsel, but could consider on-premise consumption to continue takeout sales, the report stated.
"If the state of Pennsylvania says we have to, then we'd have to reconsider and think about what makes sense," Cortez told the AP.
The plaintiffs in the case, the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania, alleged that Sheetz was operating as a beer distributor.
"This is all part of the battle (over) how beer's is going to be sold in Pennsylvania," said Bob Hoffman, a lawyer for the 410-member association.
"In terms of options, they don't have too many. Our position is that Sheetz doesn’t have a license," Mary Lou Hogan, executive secretary of the Malt Beverages Distributors of Pennsylvania, told the Altoona Mirror.