Proposed Liquor Legislation on House Bill 1979 and House Bill 1550 During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Frank C. Sluzis, Esq.

COVID-19 may have shut down the state store system and seriously hampered the operations of the retail liquor industry, but it has not stopped the Pennsylvania General Assembly from working on new liquor legislation. The following bills are currently in the respective liquor House and Senate committees.

House Bill 1979 is significant because it would allow municipalities to restrict the transfer of new retail liquor licenses and the expansion of existing licenses within their boundaries. This legislation would allow local municipalities to establish maximum saturation ratio districts whereby the municipalities could restrict the opening of new liquor establishments or the expansion of existing ones. In order for a municipality to establish a maximum saturation ratio district it must take into account one or more of the following: (1) the type of licensed use; the type of zoning district; the current ratio of retail liquor licensed establishments to other uses; and (4) the size of the zoning district.

House Bill 1550 would require notification by the PLCB of each elected state and local official of a liquor application for an establishment within the official’s elected district. The notification must be by certified mail and must be sent within fifteen days of the filing of the application with the PLCB. The Liquor Code currently provides standing to local municipalities to file a protest to any liquor application within its jurisdiction.

Senate Bill 916 would give the ailing wholesale and retail beer distributor industry a much need boost. The legislation would create a Spirits Expanded Permit for distributors to sell distilled spirits for off-premises consumption. The Spirits Expanded Permit would be akin to the present Wine Expanded Permit which allows restaurant liquor licensees to sell wine for off-premises consumption. Distributors with Spirits Expanded Permits must not sell spirits at a price less than the price the distributor paid the PLCB for the product. Distributors must also obtain and utilize electronic identification scanning devices and must cease sales of spirits after 11:00 p.m.

Should you have any questions about these pending bills or any other liquor related matter, please do not hesitate to contact us at Scaringi Law.

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