Despite promises from Wegmans representatives that its Valley Square store would maintain its family-friendly atmosphere and its employees would be trained in alcohol sales, the Warrington Township supervisors voted Tuesday to deny the market's liquor license application.
After almost two hours of debate from township residents and officials, the board voted 4 to 1 to reject the market's application. Wegmans had hoped to transfer a liquor license from a Pizza Hut in Richboro to its 225-seat self-serve cafe.
Board members' concerns ranged from fears over open containers in grocery aisles, to increased access to alcohol for minors, to the safety of the market's already crowded parking lot.
“It's bad enough being in that parking lot on its own,” said Supervisor Michael Lamond Jr. “If you add alcohol to the mix, it can only get worse.”
Though one resident spoke out in favor of the idea, most public input was overwhelmingly negative.
Steve Mendenhall, who manages Thirsty's Beer on Easton Road, brought with him a petition of more than 300 signatures of area residents who opposed a Wegmans liquor license.
“If Wegmans gets a license, who's next?” Mendenhall asked. “Is Genuardi's next? Is ShopRite next? Are there going to be taps at Wawa?”
Chairman Paul Plotnik had worried most that Wegmans would one day sell hard liquor. Secretary Glenn McKay proposed limiting the market to selling beer and wine for take-out only.
“I can promise you I'd spend three years in a lawsuit if that happened,” said Mark Kozar, an attorney representing Wegmans. “(The Malt Beverage Distribution Association) would sue us, just like they sued our client Sheetz.”
MBDA of Pennsylvania has challenged each of Wegmans other Pennsylvania liquor license applications, as well as beer sales at a Sheetz convenience store in Altoona. The Sheetz case is now before the state Supreme Court.
By SARAH BAICKER The Intelligencer