Closing Time…You Don’t Have to Go Home, But You Can‘t Stay Here

The Pennsylvania Liquor Code requires that all patrons vacate a licensed establishment no later than one half hour after the conclusion of the legal alcoholic beverage service time. Alcohol service times vary based on the type of license. Licensed hotels, licensed restaurants, licensed airports, licensed municipal and privately owned golf courses may sell liquor and malt or brewed beverages after 7:00 a.m. of any day until 2:00 a.m. of the following day, except Sunday, where with a special license, such licensed establishments can sell alcoholic beverages between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. Monday morning. Additionally, a Sunday sales permit will allow service of alcohol as early as 9:00 a.m. if food prepared on the premises is also offered. Club licensees are permitted to sell liquor and malt brewed beverages until 3:00 a.m. and all patrons must vacate the premises by 3:30 a.m.

In addition to the patrons, all off-duty employees, friends, and family must also be off the premises within a half hour after legal alcoholic beverage service time. Courts have ruled that employees who are not on duty at closing, and family members waiting to give an employee a ride home are considered patrons and are thus not permitted to be on the premises. Only on-duty employees, those working to close the business for the evening, are permitted to remain on-site more than one half hour after the legal alcoholic beverage service time. It should also be noted that an employee should never be in possession of alcohol intended for his or her own consumption. LCB offers an extended hours permit which allows a licensee to continue to serve food and only food after the legal alcoholic beverage service time. Under these permits, no patron may be in possession of an alcoholic beverage after the legal alcohol serving time.

All alcohol transactions must be completed before the legal alcoholic beverage service time. A patron may not order drinks that are paid for prior to the service time, then receive the drinks after the service time. Similarly, six packs purchased for off-site consumption before the legal alcoholic beverage service time may not be held in the cooler as a courtesy until the patron is ready to leave.

The conversion from Daylight Saving Time to Eastern Standard Time in the fall occurs at 2:00 a.m., at which time the establishment must turn back its clock, thus, making it 1:00 a.m. As such, a licensee will be entitled to remain open one additional hour. When the time conversion from Eastern Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time occurs in the spring at 2:00 a.m., then the clocks will be set forward to 3:00 a.m. Therefore, since the retail licensees’ premises (excluding clubs) must be vacated no later than 2:30 a.m., which is one half hour after legal alcoholic beverage service time, the licensee must ensure that all patrons have vacated the premises when the time changes from 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.. As such, on that night, a retail licensee will lose one hour.

— J. Ken Butera

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