The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today poured cold water on the idea of Sheetz selling beer for take-out at its convenience-store chain. Read the ruling below. As the Editorial Board wrote last year, it looks like beer drinkers will have to wait for "more choice, convenience and competition for their hard-earned money." Tough beer nuts, folks.
Here's our editorial from last year:
May 13, 2008 Tuesday
Editorial: Selling Beer;
This Bud's for you
It would take more than a few stiff drinks for most Joe and Jane Sixpacks in Pennsylvania to swallow the idea that the state's outmoded beer sales laws were written for their benefit.
Yet beer distributors and bar and tavern owners are peddling the scare tactic that loosening the rules for selling a six-pack eventually will drive up prices.
What a ruse.
Beer drinkers should be toasting, instead, that there's a legitimate challenge to the antiquated liquor laws headed to the state Supreme Court tomorrow - with a related test case waiting in the wings.
The Keystone State's beer rules are arcane, that much is certain. Beer must be purchased mostly by the case. Six-packs are available at bars and restaurants - at sky-high prices. The system is tailor-made to restrict competition and choice, and to artificially inflate prices.
The convenience-store chain Sheetz Inc. went to court for the right to sell take-out six-packs at its store in Altoona. The dispute is over state Liquor Control Board (LCB) guidelines that, in effect, limit six-pack sales to taverns.
Beer sellers opposing Sheetz contend that big retailers will barge their way into take-out beer sales and then jack up prices. This argument is laughable, coming from the surly beer sellers who now maintain a monopoly.
The state's $7 billion annual beer business seems plenty robust enough to handle a little more competition. Not to mention, Sheetz's proposal is how beer sales occur in most of the 49 other states.
So raise a glass in Sheetz's honor if the central Pennsylvania chain manages to get a common-sense ruling from the Supreme Court - one that would provide beer consumers with more choice, convenience and competition for their hard-earned money.
There's really no good reason to prevent take-out beer sales of the sort that Sheetz proposes. As long as all take-out sales remain governed by LCB rules, the location of such beer sales should make no difference to the state.
Customers, of course, would see an immediate difference in terms of convenience. And they should expect that increased competition would drive down prices wherever they reach for their favorite brew.
The six-pack rules are blue laws long past their expiration date.