The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has issued guidance to licensees regarding Act 21 of 2020, which allows certain hotel and restaurant licensees to temporarily sell prepared beverages and mixed drinks to go, that went into effect on May 21, 2020.
Hotel and restaurant licensees that have lost at least 25% of average monthly sales due to COVID-19 business restrictions, and that offer meals to go, may now sell prepared beverages and mixed drinks – liquor and one or more mixer combined on the licensed premises in quantities from four to 64 ounces – in sealed containers.
The guidance are summarized as follows:
• Only hotel and restaurant licensees selling meals to go and meeting the 25% sales impact threshold are authorized to sell drinks to go.
• Each prepared beverage and mixed drink sold to consumers must be between four and 64 ounces and include liquor and at least one mixer combined on the licensed premises.
• Licensees may not sell to go:
o Mixed drinks containing wine or beer
o Unopened bottles of liquor
o Gallon jugs of cocktails
o Unopened ready-to-drink prepackaged cocktails
o Straight liquor
• Drinks to go may not be consumed on the licensed premises and must be sold in sealed containers with secure lids or caps designed to prevent consumption without removal of the lid or cap. A lid with sipping or straw holes must be covered or affixed with an additional seal before sale.
• Licensees can sell drinks to go from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM, Monday through Saturday, and from 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM on Sundays if the licensee has a Sunday sales permit.
• There is no limit to the number of drinks-to-go a person can purchase at a time, and purchase of a meal is not required in order to buy drinks to go.
• Drinks-to-go may not be delivered.
• Within the next 60 days, any licensee selling drinks to go must begin to use a transaction scan device to verify the age of anyone appearing under 35 years of age before making a sale.
• Licensees selling drinks to go must also prominently post warning signs reminding customers it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle and noting that drinks-to-go may only be transported in the trunk of a vehicle or some other area not occupied by the driver or passengers.
• Retail licensees not permitted to sell drinks to go include clubs and catering clubs; any licensee whose license was objected to through the Nuisance Bar program; any licensee whose license is suspended or in safekeeping; and any licensee previously suspended under the Licensee Compliance program.
The new law also permits qualifying hotel and restaurant licensees to temporarily sell liquor (not wine or beer) to each other. Licensees selling liquor to other qualifying licensees must report those sales to the PLCB within seven days of each sale.
Licensees are encouraged to review Act 21 in full, since it will inform enforcement efforts by the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.
-J. Kenneth Butera