Sheetz Applauds Pa. Governor for Plan to Modernize Liquor Laws

"Bold step" in direction of changing way adult beverages sold in Keystone State

Published in CSP Daily News

ALTOONA, Pa. -- Sheetz Inc. supports Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's efforts to modernize the state's liquor laws. The chain of more than 437 convenience stores continues to endorse the idea of reforming the way alcohol is sold in the state as Corbett announced his proposed budget for 2013.

"We have been lobbying for adult beverage sales reform for a long time," said Louie Sheetz, executive vice president of marketing for the Altoona, Pa.-based company. "Although Gov. Corbett's proposal is centered around liquor, we are very excited that beer sales are part of the consideration. Allowing the private sector to manage the sale of alcoholic beverages is long overdue."

"It's a business model we are used to, and our customers who buy beer truly appreciate the luxury of being able to stop at Sheetz on the way home or on their way to a gathering. We are confident in our ability to add beer to our offer and sell it responsibly here in Pennsylvania," he said. "The plan in its current form, however, is considerably restrictive with quantity limits and licenses, by requiring annual renewal, would be too expensive. Hopefully, the governor will consider modifying some of the measures so that it makes better economic sense for us and other retailers."

Corbett announced his plan to privatize the liquor system in Pennsylvania in late January and committed $1 billion in proceeds from the process to education funding.

The $1 billion in revenue will come from the three-to-four-year process of selling the Liquor Control Board (LCB): $575 million from the wholesale license process, $224 million from the wine and spirits retail auction process, $107 million from the wine/beer license application process and $112.5 million in the enhanced beer distributor application process.

"Pennsylvania and Utah are the only two states in the country who have fully state-controlled liquor systems. Our plan sells both the wholesale and retail arms of the state-run liquor business," Corbett said. "My plan gets the state completely out of the liquor business. The state will no longer be a marketer of alcohol; instead, it will now focus on its role as a regulator. It also creates an unprecedented opportunity for economic expansion for private-sector employers while remaining revenue neutral for the state."

Currently, there about 600 state stores in Pennsylvania, the governor's plan allows for 1,200 wine and spirits stores.

Corbett said that his plan will offer Pennsylvania consumers greatly increased convenience and choice, because they will be able to buy the products they desire in a simpler, more accessible and more rational way. For example, consumers will be able to buy beer and wine where they shop for groceries, buy six packs of beer at a distributor instead of being forced to buy an entire case, and buy a six pack of beer at a convenience store.

Currently, Pennsylvania has far fewer alcohol retail establishments per resident than the average state. This proposal would allow the number of establishments to be naturally driven by the market, as it is in other states.

Corbett said that his plan balances the increased amount of retailers with additional enforcement measures. The governor's plan calls for significantly enhanced fines for selling to minors and visibly intoxicated persons, with penalty ranges increasing from $1,000 to $5,000 to $5,000 to $10,000. The additional money from license surcharges and increased fines will be designated for enforcement efforts of the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, who will see a 22% funding increase under this plan. Corbett also proposes a 75% funding increase for alcohol treatment and prevention efforts.

Corbett's plan also calls for mandatory minimum license suspensions for businesses convicted of second and subsequent offenses for sales to minors.

New alcohol retailers, such as wine and spirits stores, grocery stores, pharmacies and c-stores, must all use an ID scanner device before they can sell alcohol.