April 28th, 2020

UPDATED: How the Coronavirus Has Modified PA Liquor Laws

As we begin to look forward to the easing of certain social distancing rules, it’s becoming clearer that some of the last places going back to normal are bars and restaurants.  That said, currently making a beer run is far more dangerous than it used to be considering the potential health risks associated with COVID-19. Additionally, many bar and restaurant owners are looking for ways to scratch out some profits, when their primary source of income, has been diminished significantly. Here are some ways the coronavirus has eased PA liquor laws, providing an opportunity for establishments with liquor licenses.

No requirement to sell food

In some ways, the ability to purchase alcohol from your local restaurant or bar is actually far easier than it used to be.  Thanks to some guidance from the PLCB’s legal department, it’s been reasoned that pursuant to the Governor’s essential business directive, there is no longer a requirement to sell food and alcohol for on-site usage to allow for off-site usage. That opinion is available for review here.

This means that your local bar, if they choose to do so, can sell alcohol for take-out consumption, provided they remain in compliance with the standard rules we’ve come to know in Pennsylvania.  Specifically, the rules under 47 Pa.C.S.A. § 4-407(a) which allow most license holders to sell malt beverages for take-out consumption in less than 192 fluid ounces per person.

What about mixed drinks?

It’s also important to note that nothing in any advisory opinion from the PLCB, or any other source, permits the sale of “to-go” cocktails.  Pennsylvania is not the French Quarter in New Orleans, and based on guidance from the PLCB, and other sources, this type of “to-go” alcohol sale could put your license in jeopardy if you are reported to the PLCB.

UPDATE on 4/29/2020: In an ironic twist, it appears that the legislature may be passing House Bill 327, which may allow for “alcohol to go.” In these fast paced times, we will keep you updated as to the new legislation and how it will affect many of you who have an interest in a liquor license.

Time to wine

As for you wine drinkers out there, access to wine is still difficult until the Pennsylvania Fine Wine & Good Spirits shops begin to come back online.  Thankfully, Pennsylvania’s expanded use of Grocery Store wine locations can help you get access to wine in a relatively safe environment.  That said, certain bars with Wine Expanded Permits under 47 Pa.C.S.A. § 4-415(d) are permitted to sell up to three liters of wine.

There is an application process for the Wine Expanded Permit, so if you are an interested bar or restaurant owner, please reach out to us and allow us to assist you in obtaining one.

In future blogs, Attorney Jason A. Ulrich will address how breweries, wineries and distilleries can still find ways to profit, expand and abide by PA liquor laws during the coronavirus pandemic. He shared other liquor law insights in a recent edition of the Legal Intelligencer.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.