Liquor board approves gas station applications after Wolf's request

David Weissman

The state Liquor Control Board approved nine applications for licenses at gas stations at its board meeting on Wednesday, according to news release from Gov. Tom Wolf's office.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Tuesday that will allow the state’s more than 1,000 beer distributors to sell suds in any quantity. That includes individual 32-ounce bottles, four-packs, six-packs and growlers. The law takes effect in 60 days.

Wolf had written a letter to the board on Tuesday urging it to consider granting licenses for gas stations to sell up to 192 ounces of malt or brewed beverages.

Elizabeth Brassell, a spokeswoman for the board, said the three-member board considered and respected Wolf's letter, but each member ultimately made his decision based on an independent review process.

Since the board began keeping track, it has granted licenses to more than 300 grocery and convenience stores, including dozens that also have gas pumps, Brassell said.

In York: William Houseal, of Dover Township, said he doesn't think gas stations should be allowed to sell beer because it could lead to more drinking and driving.

"The laws should stay where they're at now," he said, walking into a Sheetz in West Manchester Township.

Parnelli Pepler, of York City, said he probably wouldn't buy beer at a gas station, but he doesn't believe it would cause any harm.

"It would not change my life at all," Pepler said, walking out of a beer distributor in West York. "I'm for what the people want."

Zach Shillito, of West York, said he believes gas stations all over the state should be allowed to sell beer, pointing to nearby states that already allow such practices.

Shillito, who is not yet old enough to legally purchase alcohol, said he would buy beer at gas stations if it was available when he turns 21. He added that he believes other stores, such as Walmart, should also be permitted to sell beer.

Ruling: The state liquor code currently requires the board to refuse license applications at a location "where the sale of liquid fuel or oil is conducted," but a recent state court ruling upheld the board's previous decision to grant licenses to Weis Cafe locations, despite gas pumps being located on the same property.

The ruling has since been sent to the state Supreme Court for additional consideration.

Brassell said many of the applications approved on Wednesday had been held up because the board had been operating with two members — one who wanted to approve the applications and another who wanted to wait until the state Supreme Court issued its ruling.

The board has since added a third member, Michael Newsome, and board chairman Tim Holden, who was initially in favor of waiting, decided to rely on the previous ruling, resulting in unanimous approvals for all nine licenses, Brassell said.

"This is the same tack we've taken in the past," she said. "This is just resuming business."

If the state Supreme Court overrules the initial ruling, Brassell said the board would expect guidance from the court on whether it would need to rescind licenses it has already approved.

The nine license approvals were for gas stations in Luzerne, Alleghany, Washington, Huntingdon, Columbia and Schulkill counties. Two of the licenses were distributor licenses, which can only sell full cases or original containers with at least 128 fluid ounces, according to Brassell.

Wolf: Wolf asked that the board approve all the applications, provided they meet the board's other standards, being considered on Wednesday, as well as all similar applications in the future.

"Doing so will make purchasing beer more convenient for Pennsylvanians," Wolf's letter states.

Wolf adds that allowing these beverages to be sold at gas stations is important in the state's goal of "freeing the six-pack." Brassell said the 192-ounce limit allows gas stations to sell two six-packs or one twelve-pack to customers at a time.

Houseal, who is against the sale of beer at gas stations, said he believes beer, wine and hard liquor should all be available at the same store, for convenience purposes.

Current laws only permit the sales of hard liquor and wine at state-run stores.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.