COVID-19 FAQs for Southeast PA Liquor Licensees
By Matthew M. McKeon
*Note: due to the rapidly evolving government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this article may not be current at the time it is read. The article will be updated in line with relevant developments.
On March 18, 2019, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (the “LCB”) issued Advisory Notice No. 26 (the “Advisory Notice”) prohibiting on-premises alcohol sales by liquor licensees (“Licensees”) as part of efforts to stem the spread of the novel virus COVID-19. Although just one of several executive and administrative directives issued by the Commonwealth in response to COVID-19, the Advisory Notice provides the most relevant guidance for Licensees.
The following questions and answers reflect some of the questions we have received from Licensees over the past week:
Q: How is the Advisory Notice restricting Licensees?
A: The Advisory Notice bans service or consumption of food and alcohol on the licensed premises and at public gatherings, while permitting continued sales for off-premises consumption for Restaurant, Distributor, Retail Dispenser, and Sacramental Wine Licenses. Licensees with a Brewery, Distilleries/Limited Distillery, or Winery/Limited Winery Licenses may also continue to sell alcohol they produced themselves pursuant to their license) for off-premises consumption.
Q: Does this mean the LCB is waiving the requirement that certain Licensees can only sell food and alcohol for off-premises consumption by also selling food and alcohol for on-premises consumption?
A: Yes, at least until further notice from the LCB.
Q: How long will the restrictions in the Advisory Notice be in place?
A: The Advisory Notice states only that the restrictions will be in place “until further notice”.
Q: What are the penalties for violating the restrictions in the Advisory Notice?
A: The Advisory Notice states that Licensees who violate the restrictions are subject to citation and license suspension. Further violations after license suspension can lead to unspecified “further enforcement action”. While not directly stated, Licensees should assume that this includes license revocation.
Q: Does the Advisory Notice alter quantity restrictions on alcohol sales for off-premises consumption that were already applicable to certain licenses and permits prior to the Advisory Notice?
A: No. Some licenses and permits, like the Wine Expanded Permit, restrict the amount of alcohol sold for off-premises consumption per transaction. The Advisory Notice does not alter these restrictions.
Q: Does the Advisory Notice require “social distancing” procedures for Licensees making sales for off-premises consumption?
A: The Advisory Notice only recommends that beer distributors employ social distancing best practices and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. However, Governor Wolf’s March 19 order closing non-“life sustaining” businesses specifically requires that restaurants and bars employ social distancing practices in fulfilling sales for off-premises consumption. As a matter of public health, all Licensees offering sales for off-premises consumption should implement social distancing practices. This includes allowing customers to order ahead online or by telephone and receive their order outside the premises in a parking space or roadside. Many establishments are also allowing customers to pay for their orders online or by telephone before picking them up.
If you are unsure about how the LCB’s advisory notice may apply to you or have other questions about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on your license, please contact MacElree Harvey, Ltd. by emailing Matthew McKeon at [email protected].