Pennsylvania Liquor Board Cracks Down on COVID-19 Violations

By: Kathryn Olon

As the coronavirus continues to spread, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has increased compliance checks for restaurants and other establishments licensed to sell liquor.   These random examinations of liquor-licensed establishments have led to many warnings, and some violations.

As a part of this increase in compliance checks, from September 25th to September 27th, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Enforcement Officers visited 816 locations, focusing on areas that experienced higher rates of coronavirus transmission.   While at these locations, Officers checked for appropriate social distancing, masking, and other health and safety measures.

In the city of Pittsburgh alone, 109 compliance checks were completed.  Six locations received warnings and two received violations.  In comparison, only 49 compliance checks were completed in Philadelphia.  There were no documented warnings or violations in Philadelphia.   Similarly, of the 59 checks conducted in Harrisburg, no locations received warnings or violations. Compliance checks have also occurred in smaller Pennsylvania cities, including: Wilkes-Barre Scranton, Altoona, Williamsport, Punxsutawney, Erie, and Allentown.

For restaurants and locations that are permitted to resume in-person operations, a random compliance check might seem frightening.   The Pennsylvania State Police have recommended that these businesses ensure that they have certain coronavirus-mitigation measures in place, including:

  • Requiring customers to wear masks while entering, exiting, and moving throughout the business
  • Requiring employees to wear masks at all times
  • Proving at least 6 feet between parties at tables and physical barriers between customers for adjacent booths
  • Post and enforce maximum occupancy limits for both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Businesses that fail to comply with these measures risk having their liquor license suspended or revoked.  Additionally, those that receive a violation may receive an administrative citation.  These civil citations are assessed based on the particular violation committed by the business, and include a fine of up to $1,000, as well as the potential suspension or revocation of the liquor license. Prior to receiving an administrative citation, noncompliant businesses receive a notice of violation.  This notice serves to provide the business with additional time to remedy the violation or to prepare a defense. 

This investigation began on July 1 and continues to be ongoing.  Because of this, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has declined to release the names of specific establishments issued a notice of violation.   A total of 11,995 compliance checks have been conducted in Pittsburgh, and of these checks, 251 licensees have received a warning and 32 have had reported violations.   The hope is that by continuing these random compliance checks, businesses will increase safety measures to slow transmission of coronavirus in Pennsylvania.

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