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Judge Upholds Denial of Liquor License for Wingate Sheetz

by on August 27, 2019 4:12 PM

A Centre County judge has upheld the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's decision to deny a liquor license transfer to the Sheetz in Wingate, which is located in close proximity to Bald Eagle Area schools and a church.

Sheetz submitted an application in 2018 to transfer the liquor license from the former Brenda's Tavern in Boggs Township to the store at 820 S. Eagle Valley Rd. Jeffrey Miles, superintendent of Bald Eagle Area School District, subsequently filed a protest to the PLCB on behalf of Wingate Elementary, which is located at 751 S. Eagle Valley Rd., 240 feet from the Sheetz store.

The school is part of a larger complex housing Bald Eagle Area Middle School and High School. Bald Eagle Valley United Methodist Church is also located 165 feet from the Sheetz store. Schools and churches are considered "restrictive institutions" if located within 300 feet of a proposed liquor licensee.

A hearing was held before a PLCB examiner in last August, with witnesses for the PLCB Bureau of Licensing, Sheetz and Wingate Elementary. The following month, PLCB issued an order refusing the transfer and Sheetz then appealed in Centre County Court.

Miles testified last year that though he appreciated what Sheetz was doing to prevent sales to minors, he was still concerned the proximity to the schools would present a danger that students could gain access to alcohol.

Peggy Faulkner, Sheetz regional director of operations, testified about Sheetz strict policies for alcohol sales. The company, she said, has only had one citation for selling alcohol to a minor and has had no citations at any of its locations since 2007.

In her ruling filed last week, Judge Katie Oliver wrote that Pennsylvania law has established that the presence of a restrictive institution within 300 yards of a proposed location is, on its own, a sufficient basis for PLCB to deny a license and evidence of a detrimental impact is not required.

Oliver wrote that Sheetz's "exemplary record" and "responsible policies and training with respect to the sales of alcoholic beverages" was not enough to compel granting the license.

"[A]lthough the nature of the evidence presented to support BEASD's objection might fall short of that required to prove detriment to the neighborhood such as to require the denial of [Sheetz's] application... the law is well-established that evidence of detrimental effect is not a prerequisite to a denial when restrictive institutions are present," Oliver wrote.

She added that the presence of the schools and church, as well as a playground and a nearby mostly residential neighborhood without another liquor licensee in the vicinity all support denying the liquor license transfer.

Sheetz currently sells beer and wine at five Centre County locations, with licenses pending at three others.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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