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LCB gives more gas stations OK to sell six-packs

HARRISBURG - Though the question of whether gas stations can sell six-packs of beer to go is before the state's highest court, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has approved more locations where customers can both fill up and stock up.

HARRISBURG - As the question of whether gas stations should be allowed to sell six-packs of beer waits before the state's highest court, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has approved more locations for customers to both fill up and stock up.

By unanimous vote, the LCB on Wednesday added sites in Luzerne, Washington, Huntingdon, Columbia and Allegheny counties to the list of those that can sell gas and beer - a contentious issue in a state that for years has struggled with how, and even whether, to overhaul its strict controls and regulations over alcohol sales.

State law bars businesses from selling both beer and gas, but some convenience stores and other businesses with gas pumps have circumvented the ban by applying for a specific LCB license that lets them sell take-out beer if they also offer an in-house eating area.

A 2014 Commonwealth Court ruling permitted the sale of beer on the same property as gasoline, as long as the points of sale are kept separate. That ruling is on appeal to the Supreme Court.

Gov. Wolf waded into the fray this week, urging the liquor board to award the licenses, which he said will help make the purchase of beer in the state more consumer-friendly.

The governor's words prompted harsh criticism from the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania, which represents distributors across the state has asked the Supreme Court to resolve the issue. Matt Haverstick, the association's lawyer, noted the governor did not mention the legal challenge, which he said could be argued before the high court this fall.

"When you don't say that a case is about to be argued in the state Supreme Court and you ignore it altogether, that's disingenuous," he said.

Unlike wine and hard liquor, retail beer sales are privatized. But the Liquor Control Board has regulations, many of which date to Prohibition, that govern who sells it and how.

Under current laws, only licensed retail beer distributors may sell beer by the case or keg - or recently, 12-pack. Shoppers can buy up to two six-packs at bars, delicatessans or restaurants and some convenience stores _ usually at a markup.