The following is a statement from Chuck Moran, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, concerning today’s votes in both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate on SB 109, which provide grants for small business restaurants and taverns.
Today, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed an amended SB 109 by a bi-partisan vote of 202-0. Later in the day, the Senate concurred, 48-0. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joe Pittman, includes $145 million to provide grants to small business taverns and restaurants by establishing the Hospitality Industry Recovery Program.
As everyone knows by now, the pandemic and related mitigation orders have been particularly hard on the mom-and-pop taverns. Finding grants to help our Members keep their heads above the water longer has been a priority of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. We are pleased that SB 109 passed both chambers, and we thank members of the General Assembly for their actions today. We urge Governor Wolf to sign it quickly.
This bill is a good starting point, but with the pandemic’s orders soon approaching a full year, more needs to be done, particularly since $145 million will not go far in helping the industry.
We are still in the survival phase. Financially, locally-owned establishments and their employees have suffered tremendously. For example, our average Member has 16 employees, 13 of whom have been laid off at one point since last March. And, our average Member relies most heavily on revenue from alcohol as nearly two-thirds of their sales come from such products. Those sales have been hampered by mitigation orders requiring an earlier-than-normal last call, reduced occupancy limits, mandated food purchases, and the ban on bar top seating.
We urge the General Assembly to consider other possible financial measures it can take to keep the industry afloat such as steeper discounts when an establishment buys liquor from the state, allowing establishments to keep sales taxes collected, and making changes to tavern gaming rules to provide establishments a higher percentage of revenue.
Then, as distribution of vaccines increases and we begin moving into a recovery phase, mitigation orders should be lifted. We also urge Governor Wolf and his staff to work with the tavern industry to set timeframes to begin easing off mitigation orders that have restricted business at these establishments, particularly rules related to the use of bar tops to seat patrons.
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About the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association is a statewide association based in Harrisburg, representing small business taverns and licensed restaurants in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Association formed in 1941, reorganized in 2019, and today advocates for best practices and rights within the industry as well as best experiences for patrons.