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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Temporary Advisory Notice: Breaking Down the Latest Guidance From the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

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On March 18, 2020, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (“PLCB”) issued Advisory Notice No. 26: Temporary Cessation of the Sale of Food and Alcohol for On-Premises Consumption Relative to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. There is not much difference in this Advisory Notice from the PLCB’s previous releases, but there is certainly a new tone regarding enforcement of these rules.

As we have previously documented, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Governor Wolf had strongly urged all food and beverage businesses to cease the on-premises sale and consumption of all food and beverages. However, off-premises sales, whether to-go, curbside, or delivery if a license permits it, were still allowed. The PLCB enumerates the following privileges that are currently permitted and prohibited for each licensee as of 8:00 PM on March 18, 2020, until further notice:

  • Restaurant, eating place, and hotel licensees may not permit the service or consumption of food or alcohol on the licensed premises. Sales to go are still permitted, as are hotel sales of food and alcohol for consumption in a private room. The PLCB issued a follow-up stating that hotel sales of food and alcohol cannot be consumed in a private banquet room, and it must be in the private rooms of the guests.
  • Sales of beer and wine (if a licensee has a Wine Expanded Permit) are still permitted without the requirement of on-premises food or alcohol, and the auxiliary operation of grocery, convenience or gas stations is permitted as those are essential businesses.
  • Airport restaurant licensees may not permit service or consumption of food or alcohol on the licensed premises, and those licenses do not permit the sale of alcohol to-go.
  • Clubs and catering club licensees may not permit the service or consumption of food or alcohol on the licensed premises, and those licenses do not permit the sale of alcohol to-go.
  • Permittees such as Special Occasion, off-premises catering, exposition, and farmer’s market permits may not permit the service or consumption of food or alcohol on the permitted premises or at public gatherings.
  • Manufacturers, such as breweries, wineries, and distilleries may not permit the service of consumption of food or alcohol on the licensed premises but are still permitted to sell food and their own products to-go and for delivery in properly marked vehicles.
  • Sacramental wine licensees may not permit food and alcohol consumption on premises but may sell sacramental wine for consumption off-premises.
  • Importing distributor and distributor licensees are permitted to operate as usual but should employ social distancing practices and avoid public gatherings of 10 or more people.

The most important aspect of this COVID-19 Advisory Notice is the PLCB’s statements regarding enforcement and suspension. Any licensee that fails to comply with the above provisions risks citation from the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (“BLCE”). BLCE will notify the PLCB of any citations that are issued, and the PLCB may suspend a licensee’s operating authority based on the circumstances.  If you receive a suspension and continue to operate, a licensee will risk further enforcement from BLCE.

It is clear that Governor Wolf’s administration, the PLCB, and BLCE will actively enforce this Advisory Notice. It even includes a link to the complaint form for BLCE. All licensees, in the interest of public health and safety, should continue to comply with the above provisions, and make sure their operations and sales are within the privileges of the license they hold.

Please follow our blog post with quick updates we receive them regarding Pennsylvania food and beverage businesses and the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: CLICK HERE.

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 (tzeller@norris-law.com); David C. Berger, Esquire (dberger@norris-law.com) for Pennsylvania and New Jersey retail and manufacturing licensing; or contact our offices at 610-391-1800.

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