Unless you’re living under a rock (or outside of Pennsylvania), you have to be aware that some of the Pennsylvania State Liquor Stores are now open on Sundays (10% of the total). This and several other changes are the result of the adoption of two laws modifying the Liquor Code, one signed into law by former Governor Mark Schweiker on December 9, 2002, and the other on December 16, 2002.
The state-controlled distribution of liquor and wines in Pennsylvania has long been under attack by consumers who by an overwhelming majority in polls over the years have constantly expressed the desire to abolish the system in favor of private stores. Although several recent governors have tried to abolish the system, it is securely entrenched and none has come close to succeeding. The bills just adopted represent something of a relaxation in some areas, and there are some significant changes in the law dealing both with the State Stores and restaurant licensees. The following will summarize some of these:
- Restaurant licensees may enter into agreements with the Liquor Control Board (the “LCB”) to limit certain activities such as no sale of beer for off-premises consumption or agreeing to limit the hours and/or type of live entertainment. This is most important to a neighborhood where there is fear of a nuisance bar; it permits for the first time the restauranteur to enter into a legally binding agreement which will limit his or her activities in the restaurant.
- Scanning devices for minor’s identification cards are to be used, and if a card scans as valid, the licensee is protected against serving a minor if the card later proves to be false. This is a major improvement for restaurant owners who have previously been vulnerable when fake cards have been used by minors.
- Tastings. The Wine & Spirit stores may now conduct tastings on the premises.
- Service in hotel rooms of alcoholic beverages by hotel licensees is now permitted. (This had been a gray area under previous law.) Also, such beverages may be taken by patrons to non-licensed areas of a hotel.
- Golf course licensees may sell and serve alcoholic beverages in non-licensed areas (i.e., on the course).
- Bowling alley licensees may also permit patrons to take alcoholic beverages to non-licensed areas (to the bowling areas).
- Corkscrews and wine sleeves may be sold in Wine & Spirit stores.
- A license may be inactive (the LCB holds it in “safekeeping”) for up to three years; it can then be revoked if not activated.
- Supervision of minors in a licensed premises has been sharply increased. Under the old law one adult was required for every 50 minors; that has been changed to one adult for every five minors.
— Ken Butera