The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled in favor of preventing a Sheetz c-store from selling beer solely for off-premises consumption.
The Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania (MBDA), Harrisburg, Pa., welcomed the ruling.
“We see today’s ruling as a vote of confidence in the alcoholic beverage regulation and distribution system as written into law by the General Assembly, and a strong defense of the rights of licensed beer distributors to a secure place within that system,” David Shipula, MBDA president, said in a press release.
The Court, in a majority 5-1 decision on Monday, upheld a Feb. 23, 2007, ruling by Commonwealth Court that Sheetz could not sell beer solely for off-premises consumption at one of its gas station/c-stores.
Both courts found that eating place licensees must sell beer and malt beverages for on-premises consumption as a prerequisite for selling it as a take-away product.
Justice Max Baer said otherwise a convenience store “can act as a distributor by solely offering beer for carry-out purchase, yet not be burdened with the restriction of selling beer only by the case. Such interpretation infringes upon the market niche legislatively carved for the distributor.”
“The ruling “draws a clear distinction between the administrative role of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in granting liquor licenses and the legislative drafting and policy role of the General Assembly,” said Robert Hoffman of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, who argued the case before the Supreme Court for MBDA.
MBDA also has challenged restaurant liquor licenses granted to several supermarket chains to sell beer in areas of supermarkets licensed as restaurants, a practice MBDA contends is prohibited by existing state law.