PA Court OKs beer sales at Wegmans' cafes

February 23, 2009 2:31:40 PM PST
Beer sales at restaurants run by the Wegmans supermarket chain got court approval Monday in a pair of cases that expand where consumers can buy take-out alcohol. The unanimous decision in Commonwealth Court allows patrons to circumvent beer distributors where customers may only purchase beer by the case.

The court rejected arguments by the state beer retailers' association that Wegmans created a "legal fiction" by routing suds sales through cafes that are attached by an interior passageway to their grocery stores.

The ruling upheld license approvals by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for Wegmans stores in Bethlehem and Williamsport. The Pennsylvania Malt Beverage Distributors Association sued last March to appeal the agency's decisions.

The ruling apparently also pertains to beer sales at Wegmans' restaurants attached to stores in Dickson City, Lower Nazareth, State College and Wilkes-Barre.

Additionally, Wegmans is pursuing "restaurant" licenses for Warrington, Allentown, Collegeville, Downingtown, Mechanicsburg and two cafes in Erie.

Many Pennsylvania restaurants and pizza shops sell take-out beer as six-packs or twelve-packs. In the past, the agency has also granted take-out licenses for other types of retail establishments - the Wanamaker department store chain, for example, once held about a dozen retail licenses.

"There hasn't been a change in the law, there hasn't been a change in restaurant licenses, there hasn't been a change in the LCB policy," said liquor board spokesman Nick Hays. "What has happened is some of these stores have made business decisions to incorporate full-service restaurants in their businesses."

Messages left Monday for lawyers for the distributors and Wegmans were not immediately returned.

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