CLEARFIELD – After a public hearing Thursday night, Clearfield Borough Council held a special voting meeting to approve allowing the Nichols Street Sheetz to transfer a liquor license and begin selling beer and wine once renovations are made to the store.
Sheetz Corp. recently purchased an auction license from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for the Nichols Street location, and attorney Mark E. Kozar of Flaherty & O’Hara law offices, representing Sheetz, spoke to council members about the company’s plans for the store.
Kozar gave a brief history of Sheetz and the company’s incorporation of liquor licenses in Pennsylvania stores. The company began in Altoona in 1952 and since then has grown to 600 stores in six states.
Sheetz stores in other states were able to sell beer and wine, but it wasn’t until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave Sheetz permission to sell beer on-site and also for purchase to go in 2009 that the situation changed for local stores.
Currently, 175 stores allow beer and wine sales with 13 more approved and 25 applications pending.
Kozar explained that Sheetz is a forward-looking company and when designing stores in recent years, before alcohol sales were permitted, the company set up the sites to be easily converted when the time came.
He said the store on Nichols Street would be “bumped out” towards Front Street, on the end where the ice machine currently sits, eliminating the one set of double doors there. He said the remodel would begin as soon as PCLB approves and would happen quickly without the store needing to close.
Hours for beer and wine sales would then be set from 7 a.m. to 1:45 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. – 1:45 a.m. on Sunday.
Kozar explained that Sheetz has extensive alcohol management with a 100 percent carding policy where everyone, regardless of how old they appear, are carded.
The stores also employ card scanners attached to the registers so that if an ID indicates someone is not old enough, or if the ID is expired, the register will not permit the transaction. If there are two or more people in a group, they are all carded to prevent consumption by those under 21.
Employees receive extensive training, including the PLCB Responsible Alcohol Management Program and Training for Intervention Procedures, which is a national program.
All stores have 30-40 cameras inside and outside, which are monitored in store and at the security center in Claysburg. Sales are also restricted to one specific register as mandated by PLCB.
Only one borough resident attended the meeting and spoke to council.
Sid Mapes owns Sid’s Super Submarines in Lawrence Township and he explained to council that he opposes the license transfer and gave multiple reasons for his opposition.
First, Mapes said there are more than enough licenses with eight restaurants, two distributors and the local clubs. Second, the store is a known hang-out for teens, and there is a real possibility of them trying to get alcohol through their older friends.
Third, the area of Sheetz is mostly residential with four nearby churches. Mapes said he does not foresee any employment gains and possible losses from other establishments. And he said it is the responsibility of council to protect the borough from the influence of out-of-town businesses.
He reminded council that the borough is under no obligation to accept a license at the store and if Sheetz would appeal, the cost of legal fees would be a small price to pay.
Council then opened the voting meeting and several council members voiced their opinions.
Council members noted that while Sheetz might be a company based in Altoona, they have always been good neighbors in the community, donating to police and fire companies, including providing free coffee to local police officers on duty, and also donating to other organizations in town.
It was also noted that clubs do not allow for alcohol to be purchased and taken out, and recently Buck’s Pizza has also eliminated its take-out service.
Council member Fran Selvage asked if local wines would be sold at the store, but Kozar did not know.
Council member Steve Harmic said he spoke with the police and they do not seem to foresee an uptick in problems, but he cautioned council that there could be future issues they cannot predict.
After some additional discussion, council voted unanimously to allow the transfer, with council member Jim Kling absent.
Kozar said work on renovations would begin as soon as PLCB gives the go-ahead.