Sheetz “soda cave” bet pays off in Lebanon with Palmyra liquor license transfer

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In a report by the Lebanon Daily News, approval of the Palmyra Borough Council was noted for the Sheetz at 811 E. Main Street to begin selling beer out of its current “soda cave”, which would be renamed a “beer cave” once the liquor license transfer is complete.

The Sheetz would be the state’s 65th to begin selling beer, and the first in Lebanon County.

Sheetz has been installing soda caves in its Pennsylvania stores since 2011, but its “Free My Beer” campaign began in Altoona even before that – a battle against the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania, which opposed Sheetz as a “malt” licensee.

There was even this 2014 ad presenting a law change as a threat to kids:

Fast forward six years and the Pennsylvania legislature has  changed the liquor laws, making it much easier for Sheetz and other convenience stores to obtain an ‘R’ license.

The soda caves actually helped make the argument to lawmakers that beer caves should be allowed to proceed – unlike a typical gas station where the beer might be visible in a case along the wall, soda caves used for beer provide an exclusive and easily monitored location for all the booze.

How long ago did the Sheetz brothers come up with the soda cave plan? The Altoona Mirror compared how the company spoke about beer sales in 2007 vs 2017:

(If we have more stores selling beer), it will be very few and far between”

2007, Sheetz CEO Stan Sheetz

Compared to today:

Our goal would be to provide alcohol in every store where we are able to

2017, Sheetz Vice President/
General Counsel Gary L. Zimmerman

In an architectural drawing found while reporting this article, the Soda Cave can be seen tucked in the rear of the store layout, near the bathrooms.

Soda Cave entrance
Soda Cave in store layout

Although Soda Caves are turning into Beer Caves now, the past decade has seen the store fixture become immensely popular, inspiring fan art and over-the-top praise from convenience store aficionados.

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