Local beer distributors, convenience stores making changes under loosened state regulation

Under new state law, some Pennsylvania convenience stores and supermarkets, such as Sheetz, can now sell alcohol.
Under new state law, some Pennsylvania convenience stores and supermarkets, such as Sheetz, can now sell alcohol. CDT photo

Area residents soon will be able to grab a six-pack at their local beer distributor for the first time.

Beer retailers are making physical changes to accommodate the loosened state law that went into effect Jan. 17.

Pennsylvania’s 1,200 distributors now can sell beer in any quantity, including six-packs, growlers and individual 32-ounce bottles. Previously, distributors were only allowed to sell kegs, cases and, as of two years ago, 12-packs.

Also under the new law, residents can join “beer of the month” clubs that ship to their homes, bars can sell alcohol at 9 a.m. on Sundays without the requirement that they also sell food, and sporting venues can sell mixed drinks.

Some local distributors, such as Pletcher’s and Beer Belly’s, are spending money to modify their stores to stay competitive.

“We’re doing a built-in (cooler) so, yes, it’s going to cost a little bit,” said Arun Patel, manager of Beer Belly’s, which is located at 258 Hamilton Square.

Places to buy beer have increased as businesses like Sheetz and supermarkets either have or are getting alcohol licenses. Those businesses make profits from other goods, but a distributor’s only source of revenue is beer sales.

It’s a motivation to take advantage of the new law.

“We’re adapting and basically taking it with open arms,” Patel said.

The most common adjustment for six-pack sales is adding shelves and/or coolers, according to Patel and Paul Pletcher, owner of Pletcher’s, located at 330 W. Aaron Drive.

Beer Belly’s has a three-door cooler and is waiting for the installation of a 10-door cooler to accommodate six-packs, singles and 32-ounce bottles.

Local distributors say they are opting out of adding growlers as space doesn’t allow for it and doing so involves the state health department.

Refilling a growler concerns the health department because it is an open flow of beer into another container and involves cleaning the beer lines and the vessels that are being filled. Food service training is another issue, said Tom Katancik, general manager of Nittany Beverage, located at 139 N. Patterson St.

In some cases, it doesn’t make sense for wholesalers to convert to sell smaller quantities.

A wholesaler with a drive-thru, such as Nittany Beverage, gets a small percentage of business from its retail store and is more likely to carry a small inventory of singles for sampling and not be motivated to remodel, he said.

“Selling singles and six-packs is not changing our business model,” Katancikhe said. “Most distributors make money selling cases of beer.”

Caralyn Reese is a Penn State journalism student.