Top 10 Items for Licensee Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Submitted by the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement

    1. Licensees MUST require all customers to wear masks while entering, exiting, or otherwise traveling throughout the restaurant (face masks may be removed while seated). Employees are required to wear masks AT ALL TIMES and employers are required to provide masks to their workers if they do not have their own to use at the worksite. Failure to abide by this mandate risks citation.
      – Licensees are encouraged to remind customers at the entrance or have prominent signage at the entrance reminding patrons that they must wear masks to enter the premises.
      – The Governor’s Office has a “No Mask, No Service” poster available for download.
    2. Tables must be placed so that they are at least six feet (6’) apart or place physical barriers (e.g., plexiglass) between customers where interior booths are arranged back-to-back. Patrons should not be permitted to congregate in bar areas.
    3. If a licensee applies and is approved for an emergency temporary extension of premises for an outside area, regardless of whether it owns or leases the area or simply has the right to use it for such purposes, the licensee is strictly liable for any violations of the Liquor Code and the Board’s Regulations that occur within that area, including but not limited to sales to minors and visibly intoxicated persons, and sales of liquor for off-premises consumption (if a customer takes his/her drink when leaving the licensed area).
    4. When using outdoor areas, please remember that a licensee is subject to citation if amplified music can be heard beyond its own property line.
      – Under section 493(34) of the Liquor Code, unless a municipal exemption applies, if amplified music is loud enough to be heard beyond the licensee’s property line, it constitutes a violation. Accordingly, having amplified music at a location that is temporarily licensed by the PLCB, but is beyond the licensee’s actual property line, is not permissible and subjects the licensee to possible citation.
      – If the licensee owns or leases the outdoor area that is being used, it is still subject to citation if the amplified music can be heard beyond the licensee’s property line.
    5. Licensees who are eligible to sell “prepared beverages and mixed drinks” for off-premises consumption in sealed containers are only allowed to make such sales until 11 pm. While restaurant and hotel liquor license holders may generally sell liquor for on-premises consumption until 2 am, sales of sealed containers of mixed drinks “to go” must end no later than 11 pm. Please remind your bartenders of this distinction.
    6. Licensees should ensure that patrons do not puncture or remove the seal of a “prepared beverage and mixed drink” and consume it while on the licensed premises (whether inside or in a licensed outdoor area), and if they observe a patron do so, they should advise the patron that such drinks are for off-premises consumption only and require the patron to return it for re-sealing. Allowing a patron to leave the premises to leave the premises after he/she opens the container could lead to a citation.
    7. Licensees are reminded that they are also bound by the Secretary of Health’s Order dated April 15, 2020, which requires a business to develop a protocol for execution upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. The Order contains certain provisions that must be included in the protocol, including notifying employees who were in close contact with the person, consistent with applicable confidentiality laws.
    8. Other than certain Liquor Code changes that have been recently enacted (e.g., Act 21 or 2020), licensees have not been granted additional privileges to sell and deliver alcohol to customers as a result of the crisis.
      – For example, retail licensees are not authorized under their liquor license to sell and deliver bottles of wine to consumers’ homes, even if they possess both a Wine Expanded Permit (WEP) and a transporter-for-hire license. This conduct was not allowed before the crisis, and such is not allowed now.
      – Act 21 did not confer upon eligible retail licensees the ability to sell bottles of spirits “to go,” shots of liquor “to go,” or glasses of wine for off-premises consumption.
    9. While the Bureau recognizes and appreciates that these are challenging times for all businesses in the hospitality industry, in light of recent law changes and the unique circumstances of the pandemic, it is extremely important for licensees to continue to maintain all required business records for inspections by Liquor Enforcement Officers, including (but not limited to) evidence related to lost revenue to qualify of the privilege of selling mixed drinks “to go,” RAMP training of employees, tap cleaning records, etc.
    10. Please understand that it is the Bureau’s responsibility to investigate complaints made by members of the public for a variety of alleged violations, including violations of the Governor’s or Secretary’s orders or mandates related to the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19. We understand there are differences of opinion regarding the various mandates. We simply ask that you continue to cooperate with and provide the same level of respect to any Liquor Enforcement Officers who may investigate such matters, just as you would for any other investigation. Thank you. •