Last evening, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board circulated the press release from Governor Wolf updating businesses on guidance for coronavirus (COVID-19) mitigation efforts, and while the press release discusses closures of certain businesses, it also clarifies any question whether a brewery can continue manufacturing beer.
The manufacture and distribution of alcohol is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the United States. Pennsylvania is no different. In addition to obtaining permits from the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, there are several other regulatory agencies that may require permits. One of them is the Department of Agriculture. If you are operating a taproom, the Department of Agriculture may be your regulatory agency controlling the issuance of the health permit, which may be required for taproom operations if you are serving prepared food. One of the more obscure regulatory compliance items is another form of a permit from the Department of Agriculture. In order to conduct brewery operations, a brewery must complete an application with the Department of Agriculture for food establishments and specifically, for a food processor/manufacturer. Under Section 1, Part A of the application, breweries must checkmark the food processor/manufacturer option on the application and, thereafter, fill in the relevant information.
As set forth in Governor Wolf’s press release, businesses that would provide essential services may remain open, but the administration continues to encourage these businesses to employ social distancing practices. Businesses that provide essential services are specified and include food processing. Since breweries are defined as food processors by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, they are considered essential services under the press release. As a result, breweries may continue brewery operations despite the closure of other non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus, which includes “public-facing industries.” Again, it is recommended that breweries employ social distancing practices and also, public tours should be temporarily suspended.
As with all of our legal updates on the coronavirus and its impact on business, this guidance is strictly conditioned upon additional guidance and directives received from our federal, state, and/or local governments.
For information regarding national and state liquor law matters or general manufacturing and distribution advice, please contact our Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution Practice Group: Liquor Law Department Chair Theodore J. Zeller III, Esquire (firstname.lastname@example.org); David C. Berger, Esquire (email@example.com) for Pennsylvania and New Jersey retail and manufacturing licensing; or contact our offices at 610-391-1800.