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ALTOONA, Pa. -- Sheetz Inc. has spent years of fighting the state's beer laws, which do not permit grocers or convenience stores to sell the beverages, and has fought numerous court cases involving the sale of beer at its convenience restaurant here. Now, with legislation being proposed to allow the channel to sell malt beverages, Sheetz Inc. President and CEO Stan Sheetz is personally reaching out to residents to help in his efforts.
"As a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania, I love this commonwealth. My family has built our business here. We employ more than 7,800 Pennsylvania residents. We are proud of the contributions our family and our employees make every day in our communities," he said in a statement. "However, as passionate as I am about Pennsylvania, I am appalled at some of the ridiculous laws still on the books."
The rules he listed include:
-- If a "Restaurant" or "Eating Place" wants to sell beer or alcohol for take-home consumption, it also must allow customers to drink it on-site;
-- You cannot buy beer at the same location where you buy gas. However, you can drive home from a beer distributor with a case of beer on your front seat; and,
-- If you sell beer or alcohol, you cannot give away a free lunch, but you can give away complimentary food.
"The rules are mind boggling, embarrassing and too restrictive," Sheetz noted.
Sheetz and other members of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA) support legislation proposed by State Senator John Rafferty to overhaul the state's beer laws. Senator Rafferty's legislation includes the following proposals:
-- "Carding" or electronic age verification for all sales;
-- Maintaining the current number of licenses, but allowing supermarkets and convenient stores to purchase existing licenses;
-- Beefing up enforcement of underage drinking laws; and,
-- Allowing distributors to sell six-packs and 12-packs.
"Of course, the distributors -- who currently have a monopoly on beer sales -- are opposed to most of this proposed legislation. I will give them credit. They are transparent in their reasoning. They claim this law change will 'hurt their business.' To them, consumers don't matter as long as they can keep their monopoly," Sheetz said in the statement. "Why should distributors be allowed to sell beer at inflated prices, when opening up the competition will lower prices? Why should beer cost several dollars per case more in Pennsylvania than it does in nearby states?"
Sheetz also cited a 2006 instance where the state's distributors supported a move to allow them to sell smaller quantities and claimed to be watching out for consumers. He cited David Shipula, president of the Malt Beverage Distributors Association, who said at the time it was unfair to Pennsylvania's consumers to pay high costs for a 12-pack at a tavern or delicatessen when, if permitted by law, local beer distributors could provide the same package at a lower price.
"Why then, is it fair for Pennsylvania consumers to be forced to pay higher prices at a distributor, if a grocery or convenience store could offer beer for less?" he asked.
He concluded by urging consumers to help free beer in the state by studying the facts and asking their candidates where he or she stands on the issue before the May election.
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