Distributors appeal decision to give beer licenses to super markets
Noting that state law prohibits the sale of beer at supermarkets, the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania (MBDA) today appealed to Commonwealth Court to overturn a recent decision by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) to award the transfer of six liquor licenses to Wegman’s Food Markets, Inc. The license transfers would enable the Wegman’s stores to sell beer in their Market Cafés in stores at several supermarket locations across the Commonwealth.
The PLCB handed down its decisions on the March 19 without comment or explanation, The licenses involve Wegman’s Food Markets in Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre, Dickson City, State College, Bethlehem, and Lower Nazareth.
In the petition to the Commonwealth Court, MBDA challenged the LCB rulings as clearly in conflict with the state Liquor Control Codes prohibition against beer sales at grocery stores.
MBDA President David Shipula of Wilkes-Barre noted there “is a clear distinction between the PLCB’s own experiment in selling liquor and wine in several supermarkets around the state and the licensing of direct beer sales by supermarkets.” In the case of the state liquor store experiments, liquor and wine are sold by employees of the PLCB in space leased directly by the PLCB from the supermarkets.
“The sworn testimony in the Wegman’s license hearings shows distinctly that Wegman’s, the supermarket, is also the sole owner, employer and seller of beer and groceries in the same location,” Shipula said. “They can talk about building walls, barriers and partitions between the area where beer is sold and groceries are displayed but, in the final analysis, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck – or, in this situation, it’s a clear violation of the intent of state law as adopted by the General Assembly and approved by the state’s chief executive.” The Market Cafes are and will be important and indistinguishable parts of the Wegmans’ supermarkets and that makes the sale of beer there a violation of state law.
MBDA has in the recent passed, challenged the PLCB’s granting of beer sales licenses to convenience stores, which it believes to also violate state law that forbids convenience stores from selling beer.