By Ben Norman
Governor Wolf signed into law a bill that will have an impact on the food and beverage industry. The new law extends certain benefits to liquor licensees that have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic. Those with a liquor license should be aware of the new law and whether they are in a spot to benefit.
Firstly, a licensee that is permanently closing can now sell its liquor and wine to another qualified licensee. The law then goes much further by allowing one with an existing off-premise license to sell its liquor/wine in a larger area off-premises than was originally allowed. § 417 of the act has been amended to state that a business licensed to sell liquor off-premises may request the liquor control board to extend the licensed premises to include any area: 1) immediately adjacent to the existing licensed areas; or 2) within one thousand feet of the main licensed building. Once the request is made, the board will allow the licensee to use the area while it processes the request. The ability to use the area will only be terminated upon protest or by not meeting the requirements of the act. The law also allows for the board to grant an unlimited number of off-premise catering permits. Additionally, there will be no five-hour limit on catering events.
It is worth noting that the ability to take advantage of the extended premises and catering events is limited to those who are able to obtain a license under § 417(a)(1), which states, “a person holding and possessing a valid restaurant or hotel liquor license that lost more than 25% of the person’s average monthly total sales, including alcohol sales, as a result of restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 disaster emergency, may sell prepared beverages and mixed drinks for off-premises consumption where meals prepared for pickup or curbside pickup are also available.” Therefore, if you lost more than 25% of monthly sales during the pandemic, you may be able to sell alcoholic beverages in a much broader area off premises than before.
The new law also provides for an additional year of safekeeping of licenses for any restaurant, catering company, hotel, distributor, bar, etc. that closed during the proclamation of an emergency. This would mean that any business licensed to sell liquor, which had its business closed during the coronavirus pandemic, will have its license held by the board for up to an additional year until they are able to reopen.
The coronavirus pandemic hit the food and beverage industry harder than just about any other sector. To help alleviate some of the pain caused from shutdowns, curfews, and capacity constraints, Pennsylvania government has created a system that should allow for a liquor licensee to increase sales. Those that sell alcoholic beverages with some type of restaurant or hotel license should contact the liquor control board if they believe they can qualify for the licenses described herein.
 47 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 4-406 (West)
 Id. at § 417(A.1)
 Id. at § 417(A.2)(1)
 Id. at § 417(a)(1)
 Id. at § 462
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