Liquor License • Petition to Intervene

Water Street Beverage v. Pa. Liquor Control Bd., PICS Case No. 14-0216 (Pa. Commw. Jan. 29, 2014) McCullough, J. (20 pages).

Petitioner Water Street Beverage petitions for review of prior court order of respondent Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s order granting the application of non-party Weis Markets double transfer of liquor license. The order was affirmed.

Weis applied for a double transfer of liquor license to its new grocery store, which included an indoor café where Weis anticipated selling malt beverages. Water Street, which operated a beer distributorship less than a mile from the property, petitioned to intervene. Water Street presented eight objections which were heard at a hearing before the Liquor Board, including that Weis would have a competitive advantage as Water Street does not sell food or gas. Weis argued that the grocery store and café will have separate entrances with the café owners receiving alcohol training. Further the gas pumps will be monitored and only sell convenience items. Finally, an economic analyst testified that he believed any impact on Water Street would be “extremely minor.” The hearing examiner prepared a recommended opinion and order granting Weis’ application and Water Street’s petition for intervention; the Board approved Weis’ application concluding the liquid fuels would not be sold at the same location as the proposed licensed premises.

Water Street appealed arguing the board erred in approving the license transfer where the sale of liquid fuels will be conducted in violation of 47 P.S. §4-432(d) and §4-468(a)(3). Weis opposed the board’s granting of Water Street’s petition to intervene arguing Weis failed to establish there would be harm to his business.

The court first held that the petition to intervene by Water Street was properly granted as sufficient evidence to establish the potential for direct and substantial harm was produced. The court affirmed the license transfer under §4-432(d) as the definition of “location” is not defined in the code and the board was correct in utilizing the common language interpretation defining “location” in relation to the particular area of a licensed premises. Despite liquid fuels being sold by Weis, the fuels were not deemed to be at the same location as the properties were on separate deeds.