The following is a statement from Chuck Moran, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, concerning today’s vote on HB 1154 in the Pennsylvania House, after it was stripped of a Senate amendment that many viewed as a veto threat.
This evening, the Pennsylvania House of Represenatives once again passed HB 1154, sponsored by Rep. Kurt Masser, after stripping the bill of a poison pill that was added in the Pennsylvania Senate recently, and would likely cause a veto by Governor Wolf. This time, the bill passed 170-31.
In its original form that the House passed in late May, 187-14, HB 1154 would allow taverns and licensed restaurants the ability to permanently sell mixed drinks-to-go, like the industry was able during the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration. However, once the bill moved to the state Senate, it was amended to allow “ready-to-drink” cocktails to be sold by beer distributors as well as others. This was viewed by many as a step towards privatization of the state’s liquor system, something that would have caused a veto by the governor.
While some in the industry were ok with the RTD language, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association stood firm, demanding that the RTD language be removed, while indicating how the RTD language would hurt small business taverns and licensed restaurants. Earlier this afternoon, the House Rules Committee heard the concerns of our Members by removing the RTD language. The bill then moved to the House floor where it enjoyed a favorable vote.
The House did leave in the bill other parts of the Senate amendment that will be helpful as the industry recovers including changes to off-premise catering rules and the continuation of the temporary outdoor extensions.
For the past year, Pennsylvania taverns and licensed restaurants have had the right to sell mixed drinks-to-go on a temporary basis. It was a lifeline to help struggling establishments keep their heads above the water while the government worked to create loans, grants, and other forms of assistance. Many establishments took advantage of this opportunity, while many patrons safely enjoyed professionally mixed drinks in the comfort of their homes while supporting their local taverns and licensed restaurants.
It was a proven success with both licensees and patrons responsibly enjoying this new product. Frankly, for our industry, it was one of the innovations of the year that it made us wonder why they couldn’t do this before. With the success it had, it made sense to allow our establishments to continue offering mixed drinks-to-go to consumers on a permanent basis.
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Industry urges the Pennsylvania Senate to pass HB 1154 as is. Time is running out before the legislature will adjourn for the Summer, and the industry should be allowed to sell mixed drinks-to-go.
Pennsylvania’s small business taverns and licensed restaurants thank the Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, who realized the problematic situation that developed, and took brave action today to correct the situation.
We also want to remind the Pennsylvania legislature and governor’s office that Pennsylvania’s hospitality industry is still in a recovery mode despite mitigation orders removed and COVID statistics decreasing. There are several other bills that could help our Members with their recovery efforts. Pennsylvania’s small business taverns and licensed restaurants encourage the House to move HB 1497. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Jones, would encourage outdoor dining and entertainment by creating fair noise regulations across the retail liquor license community, helping both musicians and establishments.
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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.