Legislative Corner–Fall 2021

State Items

COVID-19 Recovery Priorities
After the Legislature adjourned in June without addressing several of PRLA’s critical recovery priorities, namely streamlining expanded premise for outdoor seating, updating several catering permit issues, and making cocktails-to-go permanent, the PRLA took the summer to strategize our next steps.

PRLA members spent the summer discussing this and other topics with members of the General Assembly at Chapter Legislator Roundtable events and other meetings. When the Senate reconvened in the fall, it became quickly apparent that there still was strong opposition to provisions in our primary bill, HB 1154, specifically allowing licensees to sell cocktails-to-go but not canned, ready-to-drink cocktails.

PRLA continued conversations with senate leadership to get something done on behalf of the industry. The result was to move HB 425 (Dowling), which addressed everything in HB 1154 except for cocktails-to-go, and extended the sunset deadline by three years for two provisions.

House Bill 425 signed as Act 81
The Senate and House both unanimously passed HB 425 in their respective chambers, and Gov. Wolf signed it into law on November 5, 2021. Now known as Act 81 of 2021, the provisions in the bill take effect immediately and address the following items:

  • Outdoor Seating (expires Dec. 31, 2024)

– Streamlines extension of premise, which means licensees no longer need to wait for approval to extend or change their outdoor seating areas.

– The outdoor seating area can be extended to anywhere within 1,000 feet of the currently licensed premise.

– There is no cost to extend the premise.

  • Off-premise catering permits (expires Dec. 31, 2024)

– Eliminates the $500 permit fee (likely to start in 2022).

– Eliminates the need to file for the permit before March 1.

– Eliminates the five-hour limit on events.

– Eliminates the 52 event per year cap.

  • Other Provisions

– A licensee that permanently closes can sell their unused wine and spirits to another licensee. This provision does not expire.

– A license that was placed in safekeeping during the COVID-19 disaster declaration may stay in safekeeping for an additional year at no cost.

November 2021 Election Results
Republicans in Pennsylvania saw success in voters’ choices this November to fill open seats on statewide appeals courts, including a vacancy on the state Supreme Court. However, these wins do not change the Democrats’ majority on the state’s high court.

In Pittsburgh, Democrat Ed Gainey became the first Black mayor of Pennsylvania’s second-most populous city. Gainey is reported to have tapped his former colleague state Rep. Jake Wheatley to become his deputy mayor. Wheatley is expected to resign from the Pa. House of Representatives to take the position.

Harrisburg will have a new mayor, too, when Democrat Wanda Williams declared victory of incumbent Eric Papenfuse.

Democrats also won two special elections for open seats in Democratic-leaning districts in the state House of Representatives.

Federal Items

OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard
After weeks of stakeholder meetings, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs concluded its review of the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 in the workplace. OSHA released the ETS in early November. Restaurant companies and other businesses with at least 100 employees have until Jan. 4 to get their workers vaccinated. Employees who refuse will have to wear masks at work starting Dec. 5. It’s important to note that the count is per employer, not per outlet and is based on headcounts, not full-time equivalents (FTEs).

On Saturday, Nov. 6, a panel of judges for the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to block the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate. More than two dozen states have filed multiple legal challenges in federal court against the vaccine-or-test mandate for private businesses, arguing that OSHA doesn’t have the authority to issue the requirements. In addition to the 5th Circuit, lawsuits were filed by groups in the 8th, 11th, and 6th Circuits.

DOL releases 80/20 Final Rule
The U.S. Department of Labor announced its Dual Jobs final rule that, as expected, restores the Obama-era “80/20” rule, effectively revoking the Trump Administration rule. Under the final rule, which becomes effective on Dec. 28, 2021, an employer can take a tip credit only when the worker is performing tip producing work or when:

  • A tipped employee performs work that directly supports tip-producing work for less than 20% of the workweek. Time for which an employer does not take a tip credit is excluded in calculating the 20% tolerance.
  • A tipped employee performs directly supporting work for not more than 30 minutes. Therefore, an employer cannot take a tip credit for any of the time that exceeds 30 minutes.

Build Back Better Act
President Biden’s social policy and climate change plan clocking in at $1.75 trillion. The bill does not replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).

The U.S. Reopens its Borders
Effective Nov. 8, non-U.S. citizens who are not immigrants to the U.S. will be required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination status to fly to the United States.

Local Items

Making Philadelphia Streeteries and Sidewalk Cafes Permanent
Councilmember Allan Domb introduced a pair of bills that would make streeteries a permanent fixture on Philadelphia’s restaurant scene. These bills would expand the outdoor dining options while streamlining the licensing process and preserving accessibility.
Philadelphia Tax Center

On Nov. 1, the City of Philadelphia Department of Revenue launched the City’s new tax filing and payment website, the Philadelphia Tax Center. This new site will change the way business owners will file and pay liquor and beverage taxes in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Plastic Bag Ban
The Philadelphia plastic bag ban took effect Oct. 1. The ban targets single-use plastic bags like the ones used at supermarkets and to-go. The city will use the period of Oct. 1, 2021, through Mar. 31, 2022, as an educational period where enforcement agencies will issue warnings to businesses still using prohibited bags. Enforcement officially begins on Apr. 1, 2022. The city has prepared flyers in multiple languages explaining the ban for business owners.

Third-Party Delivery Fees Cap
Philadelphia Councilmember Cherelle Parker introduced legislation that would permanently cap what third-party delivery services can charge foodservice establishments in Philadelphia. PRLA has worked closely with Councilmember Parker and her staff on this legislation. There is a hearing scheduled for November 30 to discuss this legislation and PRLA will be testifying at that hearing. •