WEST POTTSGROVE >> It looks like customers will soon be able to buy beer and wine at the Giant in Upland Square, unless the township commissioners oppose it.
Robert O’Hara, a Pittsburgh attorney representing Giant, has communicated the information to the commissioners, who discussed it at their March 15 workshop and do not seem opposed.
The company paid $491,300 for the license in an auction in the fall, according to state records. “It’s a huge investment,” O’Hara said.
O’Hara said the license, R-75, was previously held in Narberth Borough and that state law allows the licenses to be transferred anywhere within the same county.
Licenses not currently held are often called dead licenses, and O’Hara joked that a lawyer in his firm, which specializes in liquor law, calls this practice “zombie licenses, because we’re bringing licenses back from the dead.”
The supermarket chain now has 32 stores selling beer and wine, including locations in Exeter, Exton, Havertown, Royersford, Springfield and St. Davids in the region, Samantha Krepps, manager of public and community relations for Giant Food Stores/Martin’s Food Markets based in Carlisle, told Digital First Media earlier this month.
In addition to the eight licenses Giant picked up in the most recent auction round of expired licenses — it had 11 winning bids in the fall auction, of which West Pottsgrove was one. All of the licenses must receive final Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and municipal approvals.
If all receive final approvals, Giant will have more than 50 supermarkets in the state selling beer and wine.
“It’s something our customers have expressed an interest in having,” Krepps said of the convenience of being able to buy beer and wine in supermarkets.
In addition to selling beer and wine to go, the Upland Square store will also feature a sit-down restaurant selling beer, said Joseph Bresnan, West Pottsgrove Township’s solicitor.
“Basically, they’re trying to copy Wegman’s,” he said of the large supermarket in Upper Providence off Route 29.
O’Hara said the license will limit customers to 196 fluid ounces of beer — the equivalent of two six-packs of 16-ounce containers, and four standard-sized wine bottles.
But before the store can start carrying the alcohol, the company must submit a business plan to the township and hold a public hearing — which will occur at the commissioners’ April 5 meeting.
“Residents can come and say they are in favor of it, or opposed to it,” O’Hara said. “It’s just supposed to be township residents, not businesses that are opposed, but frankly sometimes that happens anyway.”
He said the license cannot be finalized if it is opposed by the local municipal government — in this case the commissioners.
The hearing may not be until next month, but The Mercury got some reaction from its Facebook readers ahead of time.
Here’s what some of them had to say:
• “It’s the norm down south. I don’t see an issue.” — Josh Yorgey.
• “Nothing is ‘normal’ down South, but as far as Giant selling beer and wine, I’m all for it.” — Carl Childers.
• “It’s about time. I lived in Florida for the past two years and enjoyed going to get food & wine at the same time. Especially if you were having company.” — Yolanda Wheeler.
• “Thanks for taking away business from the restaurants that already sell six packs and single bottles, nothing likely messing with small businesses.” — Treena Boalton.
• “Y’all complaining about it taking business from small business? This is normal throughout the country. Minus the dry states or counties. Go to the west coast and drive up and down. Everyone sells beer from 7-11 gas pump to the supermarket.” — Chan Reth.
• “You’re going to pay more (at) Giant rather go to a liquor store or beer distributor.” — Greg Wilson.
• “The stupid thing about this new law is that Giant, Wawa and other stores have to put in seating areas so they conform to the law. If you don’t have the ability for patrons to buy food and eat it on-site, you don’t get the license.” — Kurt Heidel.
• “Adults should be able to buy it wherever it is convenient.” — Eugene Sweeney.