Wawa has secured a third restaurant liquor license at auction this month -- but where the company will use it is still unknown.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced last week that Wawa picked up an expired license during the state’s ninth restaurant liquor license auction. It formerly belonged to a Clifton Heights site. The license went for approximately $132,000, and with the construction of a new Wawa occurring on the borough border with Upper Darby at Oak Lane and Baltimore Pike, some speculated that is where the license may go.
“At this time, it is premature to share details on timing and locations as we are still in the process of working through the necessary approvals and requirements for at least two locations,” Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce wrote in a Monday email.
Upper Darby officials gave their approval for plans to build a new Wawa convenience store at Oak and Baltimore, complete with self-fuel gas pumps, in late 2017, and two years later the real work has finally commenced to get the store built.
Those approved plans, according to Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie, did not include an option for any sort of liquor sales. He said he was caught off guard that Wawa had been approved a license for the area.
“It assures me that if they go down that road they’ll secure the license, and it would require zoning application and a whole change of plans,” he said. “As far as liquor and alcohol sales go, there is no seating inside which is not under the current plan.”
Restaurant liquor license holders must have an interior of no less than 400 square feet with at least 30 chairs, or an equivalent seating arrangement for public use. Wawa’s only Pennsylvania store selling beer is in Chadds Ford, a 7,500 square-foot building with 400 square feet of seating for 30 people. Most new stores in the county have been around 5,500 square feet.
Micozzie, on the whole, did not look favorably to having convenience store options to buy beer.
“Wawa is a good store, a corporate partner, but I’m not in support of these stop-and-go’s for beer at every location. If they went to blanket everywhere, there’s enough licenses in Upper Darby already,” said Micozzie.
He pointed to a number of locations in that area where people can buy beer including the Acme Market located a stone’s throw away on Baltimore Pike, JT Brewski’s Pub on Oak Avenue and Goff’s Suds and Soda distributor just down the street from that. The options may increase on that area of Oak if the Giant Food Store there expands its footprint to include beer and wine sales in the newly wet borough of Aldan (the grocery store’s restaurant liquor license at this location is still pending with the LCB).
If Wawa wants to change the plans to include beer sales at Oak and Baltimore, Micozzie said community input is needed for such a decision, and zoning approval to accommodate the mandated seating.
Wawa did not elaborate if that site will be the licensed location, or if it was holding on to the license to be held elsewhere.
A number of Virginia and Florida Wawa stores have beer sales, according to Bruce.
The Delaware County-based convenience store behemoth had previously won liquor license at the March 2019 auction for Middletown at $160,000 and one in Philadelphia for $186,000. A license is currently pending for a store in the 2600 block of Pennrose Ferry Road in Philadelphia.
The Chadds Ford location at 721 Naamans Creek Road has been selling beer since early 2017. This is the same store that launched a limited edition stout in December 2018 produced by Chester Township-based 2SP Brewing Co. Wawa Chief Product Marketing Officer Mike Sherlock said at that time that the company would look into opening more stores in the Philadelphia region to sell beer.
For comparison, Altoona-based convenience store Sheetz sold beer in 138 locations across Pennsylvania as well as in the five other states located in the company’s footprint as of March 2019.
Pennsylvania Act 39 of 2016 authorizes the PLCB to auction expired licenses to the highest responsive bidder.