LIQUOR LIABILITY LAWSUITS

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in February 2024. A pdf version can be found here. Licensees often become involved in civil lawsuits for allegedly serving a patron too much alcohol, and injuries or deaths occur as a result to third parties or the overserved patron. These are generally referred to as “dram shop” claims. There are steps that licensees should take once they have received a notice of such a claim. These steps apply to all lawsuits. Put your insurance company on notice and hire an attorney as soon as you become…
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INTERLOCKING BUSINESS PROHIBITIONS

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in January 2024. A pdf version can be found here. Pennsylvania has what is known as a three-tier licensing system: 1) manufacturing, for example, a brewery license; 2) wholesale, for example, a beer distributorship license; and 3) retail, for example, restaurant, hotel, and club licenses. Generally, the Liquor Code prohibits a person or an entity from possessing more than one class of license or having a direct or an indirect interest in another class of license. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) applicants for a license must prove…
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CLA CONDITION REQUIRING THE ID OF ALL PATRONS TO BE SCANNED

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in December 2023. A pdf version can be found here. Q. I had three citations for sales to minors and I entered into a Conditional Licensing Agreement (CLA) with the Board to renew my restaurant liquor license. One of the conditions of the CLA is that I must scan the ID of all my patrons no matter their ages and no matter if the patron has been carded and scanned before. I find that this is a problem. The patrons are complaining. I even have to scan…
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Citation for Failure To Pay State Taxes

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in November 2023. A pdf version can be found here. Licensees are aware that in order to renew, transfer, or obtain a PLCB license both the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry each must issue tax clearances for the licensee. Therefore, the licensee has the obligation to be current in both the filing of tax reports and the payment of the taxes due that are associated with those reports. Without the clearances, the respective licenses will not be renewed, validated, and…
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License Tax Clearances

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in October 2023. A pdf version can be found here. Licensees should be well aware that in order to renew, transfer, or obtain a PLCB license both the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry each must issue tax clearances for the licensee. Therefore, the licensee or an applicant for a license has the obligation to be current in both the filing of tax reports and the payment of the taxes. Without the clearances, the respective licenses will not be renewed, validated,…
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Reviewing Club Meetings and Minutes

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in September 2023. A pdf version can be found here. A club holding a club liquor or a club malt beverage license issued by the PLCB must adhere to the provisions of the Liquor Code, the regulations of the PLCB, and the provisions of its charter and its bylaws. Meetings should be held, and the minutes of those meetings should be reduced to a written format and included in the club’s minute book. The minute book should contain minutes of all regular and special meetings recorded by…
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Required Ancillary Health Permits

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in August 2023. A pdf version can be found here. All licensees of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) are mandated to maintain the licenses issued to them by complying with statutory requirements that apply to their specific license, such as having seating for 30 patrons. Licensees may find the numerous requirements to be onerous, but compliance with the PA Liquor Code and the PLCB regulations are a must; a license is a privilege between the licensee and the PCLB. Depending on the type of PLCB license…
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PLCB License Compliance Program

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in July 2023. A pdf version can be found here. Licensees must check their individual license requirements to see if their licensed premises meet all requirements for the license that was issued to them by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). The PLCB has the legal authority, in addition to the PA State Police, to enforce licensees’ compliance with the basic requirements that apply to the type of license that a licensee holds. The PLCB does this through its License Compliance Program. Each type of license, (restaurant,…
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RAMP and Conditional Licensing Agreements

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in June 2023. A pdf version can be found here. The PA State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) has become aggressive with licensees who violate a conditional licensing agreement (CLA) where compliance with the PLCB’s Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP) is mandated. Licensees who have entered into a conditional licensing agreement with the PLCB must maintain and renew the RAMP certification every two years. Failure to timely renew or obtain the RAMP certification is a violation of that conditional licensing agreement for which the PA…
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Wine Expanded Permit Holder – Minors and Patrons Under 35

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in May 2023. A pdf version can be found here. PLCB Wine Expanded Permits (WEP) are becoming increasingly prevalent. These permits authorize restaurant and hotel liquor licensees to sell wine by the bottle for off-premise consumption much like sales of beer to go. So, basically, licensees can have a wine store for the PLCB application fee of $2,000. Licensees holding a WEP have a different compliance standard when it comes to checking the age of youthful looking patrons. Liquor licensees holding a WEP are required to use…
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Unlawful To Lease a Liquor License

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in April 2023. A pdf version can be found here. Q. I own a restaurant licensed by the PLCB. The restaurant liquor license is held in the name of my limited liability company. I have a buyer who wants to purchase the business and license right away and start operating without waiting for his PLCB transfer approval. The buyer would take all of the profits, and pay me rent as the owner of the real estate. Is there any way I can lease the license to the…
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Educating Employees To Avoid Liability

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in March 2023. A pdf version can be found here. Finding a sufficient number of employees is a recognized national problem, especially for businesses in the hospitality industry. Licensees may be so desperate that they will even hire totally inexperienced persons to staff their establishments. This can create concerns regarding the employees’ knowledge of the laws that apply to the alcoholic beverage industry. Therefore, new employees must be educated as to the legal issues involved in the highly regulated alcohol beverage industry. Licensees must take the time…
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Employee Handbook Sales

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in February 2023. A pdf version can be found here. I have written about the importance for licensees to have an employee handbook in a past column. Licensees should maintain a written employee handbook even though a licensee may have only a few employees. The reason for the handbook is simple: self-protection. The employees have the house rules in a written form, and therefore the employees cannot say that they did not know the house rules when it comes to disciplinary actions. The handbook should be drafted…
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Licensing in Safekeeping

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in January 2023. A pdf version can be found here. Q. I am closing my restaurant for extensive renovations. We expect to be closed for about three months. Do I have to notify the PLCB that the restaurant will be closed? A. Yes. Whenever your licensed establishment will be closed for 15 days or more, regardless of the reason for the closure, you must place your license into safekeeping with the PLCB. You do this by notifying the PLCB online at PLCB+, stating the reason why you…
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Prohibited Interlocking License Interests: Retail and Manufacturing

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in December 2022. A pdf version can be found here. Retail licensees providing musical entertainment must be extremely careful not to allow amplified music to be heard off of their licensed premises. Usually, amplified music heard off of the premises will generate complaints from neighbors or the local police and result in a citation or citations being issued by the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. The Pennsylvania Liquor Code makes it unlawful for licensees to use a “loudspeaker or similar device whereby the sound…
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Prohibited Interlocking License Interests: Retail and Manufacturing

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in November 2022. A pdf version can be found here. Q. I am a member in a limited liability company holding a restaurant liquor license and I have the opportunity to become a majority shareholder in a corporation holding a brewery license. I want to be both a member in the brewery and a shareholder in the limited liability company holding the restaurant liquor license. Can this be done? A. You will not be legally allowed to hold an ownership interest both as a shareholder in a…
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Minors Age Compliance Program – Be Vigilant

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in October 2022. A pdf version can be found here. Licensees are still being cited for sales to minors as a result of Pennsylvania’s age compliance program, which is administered by the State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE). This program is still very much active, even though the Pennsylvania General Assembly must approve to continue the program past December 2022. I have written about this program in past columns and it is worth revisiting since the sales or the furnishing of alcohol to minors is…
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Education Employees

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in September 2022. A pdf version can be found here. Employees must be educated as to the legal issues involved in the highly regulated alcohol beverage industry. Licensees are aware of the common issues that could create violations of the liquor code, which I have covered in past columns. Licensees must take the time to review with their employees, new hires as well as the veteran alcohol beverage servers, the laws relating to some common employee-caused violations to prevent the violations from occurring. A paramount issue is…
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Licensees’ Records on the Licensed Premises

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in August 2022. A pdf version can be found here. The Pennsylvania Liquor Code at 47 P.S.§ 4-493 requires licensees, (which includes restaurants, hotels, and clubs), importing distributors, distributors, and retail dispenser licensees to maintain on their licensed premises complete and truthful financial records covering the operation of the licensed business for a minimum period of two years. The most important business records that licensees must keep are the state liquor store invoices and invoices for purchases of malt or brewed beverages. Additional examples of business records…
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End of Term Lease and the Liquor License

This article was originally published in the Pennsylvania Observer/Pennsylvania Beverage Media in July 2022. A pdf version can be found here. Q. I am the president of a corporation which holds a restaurant liquor license issued by the PLCB. The corporation does not own the building nor real estate where the business is located, but leases it from the owner. We have just received notice that our lease will expire in 90 days and will not be renewed. What will happen to our liquor license? Can we transfer it to a new location? A. You will be able to file…
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Hotel Liquor Licenses – Number of Bedrooms

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer/Pennsylvania Beverage Media in June 2022. A pdf version can be found here. Licensees possessing a hotel liquor license issued by the PLCB are strictly required to maintain a specific number of bedrooms for guests to qualify to continue to hold the PLCB hotel license. The number of hotel rooms that each hotel licensee must have is determined by the Pennsylvania Liquor Code at 47PS § 4-461 and is based on the population of the municipality where the hotel premises are located. Municipalities having a population of less than 3000 must have…
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Tax Clearances – Personal Taxes

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in May 2022. A pdf version can be found here. Licensees are aware that in order to renew, transfer, or obtain a PLCB license both the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry each must issue tax clearances for the licensee. Therefore, the licensee or an applicant for a license has the obligation to be current in both the filing of tax reports and the payment of the taxes due that are associated with those reports. Without the clearances, the respective licenses…
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Management Company Pending Sale of Licensed Business

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in April 2022. A pdf version can be found here. I am selling my restaurant and the buyer would like to enter into a management agreement to operate my restaurant while the buyer’s PLCB transfer application is being processed. The buyer would receive the profits after my expenses. Can this be done? Yes. The liquor code currently legally permits management companies to have a financial interest in the licensee’s licensed business. A licensee can engage a management company to operate, manage, or supervise all or just a…
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Consequences of Violating the COVID-19 Emergency Order

This article was originally published in the Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in March 2022. A pdf version can be found here. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) mandated, pursuant to Governor Wolf’s Covid-19 emergency order, that licensees had to cease all consumption of alcohol and food on their licensed premises effective Wednesday March 18, 2020 at 8 P.M. However, sales of food, beer, and wine for off premises (take-out) consumption were still permitted. The PLCB then issued Advisory Notice 26 on March 18, 2020 to all license holders throughout Pennsylvania. The advisory notice listed the retail license types…
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Liquor Liability Lawsuits

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in February 2022. A pdf version can be found here. Licensees often become involved in civil lawsuits for allegedly serving a patron too much alcohol. These lawsuits are generally referred to as “dram shop” lawsuits. There are steps that licensees should take once they have received a notice of a claim. These steps apply to all lawsuits. Your very first acts should be to put your insurance company on notice and hire an attorney as soon as you become aware of a potential claim (immediately after you…
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Extending Outdoor Licenses

This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Observer / Pennsylvania Beverage Media in January 2022.  A pdf version can be found here. Governor Wolf signed House Bill Number 425, now known as Act 81 of 2021, into law on November 5. This law is now in effect until December 31, 2024 and temporarily amends the Liquor Code regarding several provisions, which are intended to give licensees some economic help during the health crisis. I reviewed the change in the law relative to off-premise catering permits in my previous column. Another change in the law involves the use of the…
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Indoor Dining and Alcohol Sales

The hospitality industry continues to struggle financially during the national COVID-19 health crisis and the government’s attempts to control the spread of the deadly virus. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board issued an updated guidance regarding the Governor’s various orders on January 4th, 2021 to all licensees. One topic covered by the updated guidance are the guidelines for the resumption of indoor dining and the service of alcoholic beverages, which restaurant licensees must strictly follow. Licensees who are offering indoor seating for dining and desiring to sell alcohol beverages must provide a meal for consumption on the premises in order to…
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Citation For Failure To Pay State Taxes

Licensees are aware that in order to renew, transfer, or obtain a PLCB license both the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry each must issue tax clearances for the licensee. Therefore the licensee has the obligation to be current in both the filing of tax reports and the payment of the taxes due that are associated with those reports. Without the clearances, the respective licenses will not be renewed, validated, and any transfer application or an application for a new license will not be approved. Licensees experiencing financial difficulties with the payment of their…
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Non Renewal Of Liquor License For Amplified Music Violations

Q. My corporation has a restaurant liquor license, and I have had two (2) citations involving amplified music being heard outside of my premises within the past year. I have a live music venue and neighbors have been complaining to the State Police about hearing the music. The PLCB has sent me a letter objecting to the renewal of my amusement permit claiming I abused my licensing privileges because of the two citations. Can the Board legally do this? I have also been listed as not being reputable because of the music citations. A. The Pennsylvania Liquor Code makes it…
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PLCB Introduces New Licensee Compliance Program

Each type of license issued by the PLCB has specific legal requirements that must be complied with in order to qualify for the license to be issued to the license applicant. For example a holder of a restaurant liquor license must have on its premises seating for 30 patrons, food on the premises to feed 30 patrons, utensils, dishes etc. to serve the food, and a valid, current health license/permit issued to the premises by the local municipal authority, and the licensed premises must presently consist of a minimum area of 400 square feet. The license holder must continue to…
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