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Westmoreland

Sheetz seeks to transfer liquor licenses from Pizza Hut hoard to North Huntingdon stores

Joe Napsha
| Monday, June 11, 2018, 3:48 p.m.
Sheetz Inc. store at intersection of Route 30 and North Thompson Lane, North Huntingdon
Joe Napsha
Sheetz Inc. store at intersection of Route 30 and North Thompson Lane, North Huntingdon

Convenience store chain Sheetz Inc. bought 24 liquor licenses from a Western Pennsylvania Pizza Hut franchisee about 18 months ago and wants to transfer two of those licenses so it can sell beer and wine at two of its stores in North Huntingdon.

The North Huntingdon Commissioners will hold a public hearing 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Town House prior to voting on whether to approve the transfer of the licenses to the Sheetz stores at Ronda Court and at the intersection of Route 30 and North Thompson Lane.

The township must conduct a public hearing on the transfer within 45 days of receiving the request, according to a May 18 letter requesting the hearing.

Sheetz notified the township it bought 24 restaurant liquor licenses from Aurora Huts LLC. of Hempfield and is seeking to transfer the license from the Pizza Hut on Route 30 in Hempfield to its Ronda Court site, according to documents filed with the township. The Altoona-based company wants to transfer a liquor license from the Pizza Hut along Route 30 in Irwin to its North Thompson Lane store.

The LCB had classified the licenses as in "safekeeping," meaning Aurora Huts had not been using them to serve alcohol at its restaurants in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Washington and Westmoreland counties. They will remain listed as the owners until the transfers are approved, said Shawn Kelly, a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board spokesman.

Attorney Mark Flaherty of Pittsburgh, listed by the LCB as a contact for Aurora Huts, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The township must approve the transfer of the liquor license before the Liquor Control Board will give its approval, Kelly said. The public hearing is necessary when a municipality has exceeded its quota of liquor licenses based on population.

Even if North Huntingdon approves the transfer of the license, Nicholas Ruffner, a Sheetz spokesman, said it is not likely that the store would be selling beer and wine until next year.

North Huntingdon last month gave Sheetz approval to expand both stores to permit a minimum of 30 seats inside, which is a requirement of the state for those obtaining a restaurant liquor license.

Sheetz is not seeking a liquor license for its third store in the township, which is at the intersection of Route 30 and Carpenter Lane, Brian Dinges, senior real estate site selector for the company, told the township in April. That store is within a quarter-mile of Norwin's Stewartsville Elementary School on Carpenter Lane.

Many of the licenses it acquired from Aurora Huts have been assigned to Sheetz stores in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, and other counties where the licenses had been located, Ruffner said.

Sheetz already has 68 active liquor licenses around the state, plus another 26 the LCB classifies as "pending." The only two active licenses it holds in Westmoreland County are along Route 22 in Murrysville and Route 711 in Ligonier Township, according to the LCB website.

Liquor licenses for its stores in Latrobe and Scottdale are pending, according to the LCB. Latrobe City Council gave its approval in April of a Sheetz request to transfer a liquor license from Unity.

While the state does not track the price of licenses sold in a private transaction, Kelly said, Sheetz paid $283,700 for a liquor license in York County during an auction in April and $116,000 for a license in Altoona, but only $31,000 for one in Nanty Glo, Cambria County, according to the LCB.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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