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At long last, grocery shoppers in two western Pennsylvania communities will be able to enjoy the same convenience consumers in many parts of the country have long enjoyed: the ability to purchase beer at the supermarket.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) earlier this week approved the sale of beer at two western Pennsylvania Giant Eagle supermarkets, one located in South Strabane Township, Washington County, and another in a soon-to-open flagship Market District concept store in Robinson Township. Giant Eagle will be able to sell its customers the equivalent of two six-packs, while distributorships can only sell beer by the case. The Pittsburgh-based regional retailer is seeking licenses to sell beer from cafe-style areas inside 11 other stores across western Pennsylvania.
Giant Eagle spokesman Rob Borella told Progressive Grocer the beer permit approval for two stores is “very exciting” for both the grocer and local consumers in view of neighboring states that have long permitted the convenient, responsible sale of beer and wine in grocery stores. “We are pursuing multiple licenses in the Pittsburgh area to start with, and if consumers react well, we will certainly pursue beer licenses wherever possible,” Borella noted.
Giant Eagle intends to start selling beer at its new Market District store on grand opening day, Nov. 5, followed later in the month in the South Strabane location, after a separate area to merchandise, stock and display beer is added. The chain will stock up to 250 varieties of beer and other malt beverages, with an emphasis on microbrews and premium brands, according to Borella.
The chain will take “extreme precaution, and a very responsible approach to age-identify patrons -- even those who might look well over the age of 21,” said Borella, adding that everyone buying beer will be carded.
The measure to approve beer sales in a limited number of Keystone State grocery stores in recent years is part of a change in a state law several years ago that permitted brick-and-mortar state-owned wine and spirits stores to be co-located with supermarkets. The PLCB -- which operates 19 of these shops across the commonwealth and approved Giant Eagle’s petition despite allegations of unfairness by the Philadelphia-based Malt Beverage Distributors Association (MBDA) --- is one of 19 states to have some measure of government control over alcohol distribution.
The MBDA, which represents 1,300 beer distributors statewide, has also fought licenses awarded by the PLCB in recent years to Wegmans and Weis Markets, among others. The beer distributors’ group views the grocery stores’ beer license approvals as a threat to their business.