Sheetz gets city’s OK for beer, wine sales at Latrobe store
Latrobe City Council on Monday voted 5-2 in support of Sheetz’s plan to sell beer and wine at its store at Ligonier Street and Route 982.
The Altoona-based convenience store chain’s request to transfer a restaurant liquor license from a former Pizza Hunt franchisee in neighboring Unity now will be considered by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Councilmen Jack Murtha and Robert Forish voted against the resolution of support. Murtha said he shared Latrobe police Chief James Bumar’s concern that potential trouble surrounding sales of alcoholic beverages could tie up at least one city police officer at the store during nighttime shifts, when the officer may be needed elsewhere.
Bumar, who was disappointed by council’s vote, testified before the panel that Latrobe’s Sheetz store already is a “high call-response location,” with city police dispatched to 147 complaints there from 2015 to 2017.
“The number of police calls will increase,” along with the alcohol sales, he predicted. “Incidents of public drunkenness, underage drinking, disorderly conduct and driving under the influence are sure to trend upward.”
Adding alcohol to the mix could make any incident at the store “more volatile and unsafe for all involved,” Bumar said.
He’s also concerned older adults addicted to opioids may purchase alcohol at the store in order to resell it to underage drinkers.
“I personally don’t see that it’s going to be that big of a deal,” Mayor Rosie Wolford said of the proposed alcohol sales. She said she conducted some research and found no troubling trends at other Sheetz locations that already sell alcoholic beverages.
She said Sheetz has been a responsible member of the business community, adding, “We want to make sure Sheetz stays in Latrobe and grows and thrives.”
Two Latrobe residents related similar sentiments in favor of alcohol sales at Sheetz. Sheetz attorney Mark Kozar argued that council should disregard concerns voiced by another citizen because he resides in Unity, not the city.
If state officials approve the license transfer, Kozar said, daily beer and wine sales will begin at 7 a.m. most days and 9 a.m. on Sundays, and will end at 1:45 a.m. daily.
He said beer will be sold in a designated “Beer Cave” area of the store while wine will be displayed on a rack near the cash registers. Daily sales per individual will be limited to four bottles of wine and two six-packs of beer, he said.
Under the license, Sheetz would add seating for 30 patrons to eat inside the store. Kozar said the license requires the store, against its wishes, to serve beer for on-site consumption, but daily sales would be limited to two beers per person, which must be ordered along with food.
Kozar said the chain scans ID cards for any alcohol sales and will use employee training and additional surveillance cameras to prevent sales to those who are underage.
According to Kozar, Sheetz offers alcohol sales at 256 stores — 54 of them in Pennsylvania, including one in Murrysville. Two North Huntingdon stores are among other locations where Sheetz wants to begin selling beer and wine.