Cigar Bars in Pennsylvania

Notwithstanding Pennsylvania’s general prohibition on smoking in bars, Pennsylvania does permit the operation of “cigar bars”.

Under the Clean Indoor Air Act, a proposed cigar bar needs to apply for and obtain a Department of Health exemption to allow smoking on the premises. All permits for cigar bars outside of Philadelphia are processed through the Commonwealth’s Department of Health not the Liquor Control Board. All alcohol related regulation remains in the purview of the Liquor Control Board.

Historically at the time of the passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act, certain existing “Type I” cigar bars could be grandfathered under the Act, provided that they met certain requirements. However, any establishments that would have benefitted from this designation, would have already received or would have irretrievably lost this method of obtaining a permit. Now the only way to obtain a permit is by qualifying as a “Type II Cigar Bar”. In order to do this, an applicant must:

Hold a Restaurant (R) License or an Eating Place Dispenser (E) License; and

Establish and maintain that 15% of its combined gross sales are from tobacco, tobacco accessories, cigar storage lockers or humidors. Because a Type II license has no sales history to rely on, the first year’s percentage can be estimated. Thereafter, actual numbers that match sales and use tax reports must be submitted on an annual basis. (Note that there is no percentage-of-sales requirement for food. However to obtain and maintain an E or R License, there must be 30 seats and the ability to serve food to 30 persons.)

Remain “smoke free” until the permit is granted.

Cigar bars are obviously not to everyone’s taste and therefore the decision to open one carries with it more than its share of risk. It is still possible to open such an establishment, however, and we as a firm have some experience with the process.
– Rod Fluck

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