Nicholson Borough Council signed a resolution on Monday, denying the transfer of a liquor license to the Pump N Pantry, located on state Route 11 in the borough.
Before the resolution was signed, a public hearing, under the direction of borough solicitor Paul Litwin, took testimony from the community as well as representatives from the Pump N Pantry on the proposal.
As presented by John Rogers, attorney for Pump N Pantry, the chain recently obtained a liquor license from Clinton Township, and wishes to use it to sell six packs of beer at the Nicholson store.
The Pennsylvania Liquor and Control Board license is a restaurant license, and the store would have 30 seats for patrons. To conform with the law, Rogers explained, customers would be permitted to consume one 25-ounce beer with a meal.
Rogers emphasized that the primary purpose of the liquor license is to allow the Pump N Pantry to sell six packs of beer that would not be consumed on the premises.
When questioned by councilman John Decker about how patrons could consume beer with a meal without breaking open a six-pack, Rogers explained that the store will also sell single cans of beer.
Scott Quigg, president of Pump N Pantry, explained that many convenience stores - such as Sheetz - are now selling beer. In order to remain competitive, he said, stores in the Pump N Pantry chain must do the same. He explained the Pump N Pantry in Mansfield started selling beer 11 days ago, and liquor licenses are pending at other stores.
Stan Anderson, vice-president of store operations for Pump N Pantry, explained that all the store employees have received state training to sell the beer - including checking identification. All customers will be required to provide valid IDs, he said. And no employee will be permitted to sell beer to a visibly intoxicated person.
During public testimony, no local member of the public came out in favor of the Pump N Pantry selling beer.
Scott Aylesworth, owner of the Office Bar and Grill in Nicholson, pointed out there are already three liquor licenses in establishments in Nicholson, a community which he said only had 630 residents.
“People will stop on Route 11,” he said, explaining that he fears losing one-third of his business if the Pump N Pantry starts selling six-packs.
“If that happens, either I lay off my employees or I go out of business,” he said.
Mark June, owner of the Hotel Almont, echoed Aylesworth’s concerns. He said was informed by his beer distributor that many convenience stores across the state have been selling beer, and that the distributor has lost 72 accounts since the trend began.
Borough secretary Karen Brown, speaking as a private citizen, said that the bars in town are a nice place to go, and support the community.
“I just don’t think we need it at all,” she said about a big corporation coming in and selling beer.
Brown also produced statistics, provided by the chief of the Dalton police, which serves Nicholson Borough, indicating that there have been 152 calls to the Pump N Pantry from 2015 to the present.
However, Rogers challenged these figures, pointing out that many of them - such as 34 for traffic stops - have nothing to do with the establishment.
Patrolman Stephen Hull, who was at the hearing, confirmed that many of the calls were for incidents in the vicinity of the Pump N Pantry.
During the closing arguments, Rogers said that council cannot legally reject the liquor license based on the arguments it would have an adverse effect on the three businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.
Under such circumstances, the decision can be appealed, he said.
Solicitor Litwin said that he asked for a motion from borough council to approve the liquor license request and no one was willing to make it.
He did, however, get a motion and second to deny the request and the council passed it unanimously.