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David C. Berger
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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for Pennsylvania Food and Beverage Businesses

Reopening Coronavirus COVID-19 in Pennsylvania Updates and Liquor License Compliance Tips for operations of restaurant, bar, hotel, tavern, brewery, winery, and distillery licensees

This blog post will contain the latest updates for restaurant, bar, hotel, tavern, brewery, winery, and distillery licensees related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Pennsylvania (Latest Update: April 20, 2020, 3:45 PM). Below the updates, we included some compliance tips to think about if you choose to or are forced to close your food or beverage business. Please reach out to our liquor law team below with any questions or concerns.

April 20, 2020, 3:45 PM: The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has extended its guidance, in TTB G 2020-1A, regarding the production of Hand Sanitizer by distilleries until December 31, 2020. The TTB stated it is also working to provide guidance for additional flexibilities under the CARES Act for alcohol manufacturers. Also, the TTB announced the temporary closure of its labs, which means it is unable to process product samples. The TTB will still be able to process formulas that do not need laboratory analysis

April 3, 2020, 9:00 AM: We are aware that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) sent out license renewal notices for the Licensees that have licenses expire on June 30, 2020. Note that as per the PLCB special allowances issued on March 16, 2020, these current renewal/validation deadlines for these licensees remain waived for the time being due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, should any Licensees still wish to timely file their renewal/validation applications and require assistance please do not hesitate to contact the Norris McLaughlin Liquor Law Practice Group.

April 2, 2020, 10:30 AM: The PLCB is still requesting and reviewing brand registrations from breweries prior to brands being sold in PA, whether for sale out of the brewery or to another licensee. We have spoken with the PLCB and Liquor Control Enforcement, who have both indicated that simply filing the brand registrations should be sufficient. This is important because the usual PLCB employee that processes all brand registrations is not working remotely and the PLCB has a team of a few people reviewing brand registrations, among many other things. The approvals are delayed, which is why filing is believed to be sufficient to meet compliance. We are awaiting official word from the PLCB on this subject and will update this post accordingly.

March 26, 2020, 9:00 AM: The U.S. Senate has approved the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (the CARES Act), which includes, among many things, amendments to exempt distilleries from paying Federal Excise Tax on the use of undenatured alcohol to make hand sanitizer. The CARES Act is still pending approval from the House of Representatives and President Trump.

March 23, 2020, 3:30 PM: The PLCB has waived the requirement for Brewery, Alternating Brewer, Importing Distributor, and Distributor licensees to file monthly malt and brewed beverage sales reports on PLCB+ until further notice. Also, the PLCB waived the requirement for Direct Wine Shipper licensees to file quarterly sales reports for all sales to Pennsylvania residents.

March 19, 2020, 5:30 PM: Governor Wolf announced the closure of all non-life sustaining businesses. His video press conference seemed to maintain licensees’ ability to sell to-go. We will update if that changes.

March 19, 2020, 1:30 PM: We have heard from the PLCB investigators that they will be able to issue temporary authority for applicants who were pending a final inspection prior to the PLCB shutting down field operations.  We are required to submit a few pictures and we will receive temporary authority for 60 days (an increase from the usual 30) and will be required to conduct the final site investigation upon the PLCB resuming field investigations.

March 18, 2020, 4:00 PM: The PLCB issues temporary Advisory Notice No: 26 regarding the requirements of all licensees moving forward during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. You can see the advisory notice here.

March 16, 2020, 10:30 PM: Governor’s Office issues release that, for at least the next two weeks, it “strongly urges” non-essential businesses to close but it is not requiring businesses to close. Also, the release permits food processors (which generally includes most alcohol manufacturers) to remain open as essential businesses, but they should still follow the Governor’s requirement to cease all on-premises sales. The Governor’s office did leave the option of requiring closure on the table if he and/or the Secretary of Health find it necessary to compel closures under the law. All businesses should follow the Trump Administration’s guidance to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

March 16, 2020, 8:30 PM: The PLCB issues limited special allowances for certain licenses, including (1) waiver of safekeeping requirements discussed below (including penalties and deadlines), (2) waiver of current renewal/validation deadlines and extension of operational authority for all licensees whose license may expire before normal PLCB operations resume with all related penalties waived, (3) permitting retail licensees (eating place, restaurant, hotel, etc.) to continue selling beer to-go (and wine to-go if they have a Wine Expanded Permit) in the absence of restaurant operations, and (4) club and catering club licensees must cease all on-premises consumption. PA Liquor Control Enforcement will be responsible for policing these requirements. REMINDER, the PLCB has stated that retail licensees do not have any additional privileges to do curbside alcohol sales or deliver (please see below). The PLCB will reevaluate its position toward the end of March.

March 16, 2020, 2:00 PM: ALL COUNTIES NOW INCLUDED: Governor Wolf has required all non-essential businesses, such as restaurants, bars, and non-supermarket/gas station retail locations to close for on-premises sales across the Commonwealth. It appears that to-go, curbside and delivery sales are still permitted by food and beverage businesses. We have confirmed that Liquor Control Enforcement will be policing these restrictions, and are working to confirm other details around these closures.

March 16, 2020, 1:30 PM: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has required all businesses, other than supermarkets, big box stores, pharmacies, daycare centers, hardware stores, gas stations, banks, and vets, to close after 5:00 PM on Monday, March 16, until Friday, March 27. Food and beverage businesses such as restaurants, breweries, and bars, can still offer online or to-go sales but may not offer on-premises sales. This is consistent with the actions Governor Wolf took last night for the four counties surrounding Philadelphia.

March 16, 2020, 1:00 PM: Just posted on the PLCB website regarding the planned opening of Tenth Restaurant License Auction Bids on 3/19/20: NOTE REGARDING BID OPENING FOR TENTH RESTAURANT LICENSE AUCTION: As mitigation efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 intensify, the PLCB has indefinitely suspended the bid opening for the tenth restaurant license auction. Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.

March 16, 2020, 10:30 AM: We were just notified by a PLCB investigator that the PLCB and Commonwealth have shutdown most non-essential meetings and fieldwork, such as PLCB investigations with no timetable for such work to resume. If you have any pending investigations, they will be put on hold until business resumes as usual. Many PLCB investigators work from home, so it will be interesting to see if they handle investigations remotely. Regardless, there will be a delay in getting applications approved due to this shutdown.

March 15, 2020, 10:00 PM: Governor Wolf has required the termination of all on-premises sales and consumption at food and beverage retail businesses in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties as of 12:00 AM on March 15, 2020, for at least two weeks. To-go, curbside, and delivery sales may continue as posted above.

March 14, 2020: The PLCB announced the phased closure of all Fine Wine & Good Spirit Stores in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties beginning on Tuesday, March 17, ironically on St. Patrick’s Day. While this order currently only affects those stores in those counties, such closures may spread to additional stores along with the possible continued spread of the virus.

Pennsylvania Coronavirus (COVID-19) Closure and Liquor License Compliance Tips

Safekeeping

  • The PLCB has waived safekeeping rules for an indefinite period of time. If you have to close your liquor licensed business and you will not be offering any sales at all, you do not have to place your license in safekeeping.

Curbside/Delivery

  • The PLCB has stated that retail licensees (restaurants, bars, taverns, etc.) do not have the privilege of curbside or delivery service. If you have an outside area licensed, you can sell to a customer out there if you have a mobile POS system, otherwise, all sales must be run through a POS on the licensed premises and taken from that area by the customer.  Also, if you have obtained a transporter for hire license, you can deliver beer with food.  If you have a Wine Expanded Permit, wine is not available for delivery.

To-Go Sales

  • Tips for Grocery and Convenience Stores: CLICK HERE

We will keep this thread up-to-date as more updates come in from the Commonwealth and 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 (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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