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By in Latest News Comments Off on Statement: PaTaverns applauds PaHouse fixing mixed drinks-to-go bill and (again) passing it

Statement: PaTaverns applauds PaHouse fixing mixed drinks-to-go bill and (again) passing it

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.

 

By in Latest News Comments Off on Statement: PaTaverns applauds PaHouse passing mixed drinks-to-go bill

Statement: PaTaverns applauds PaHouse passing mixed drinks-to-go bill

Chuck Moran, Executive Director

The following is a statement from Chuck Moran, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, concerning today’s passage of HB 1154 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Today, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed HB 1154, sponsored by Rep. Kurt Masser, that would allow taverns and licensed restaurants the ability to permanently sell mixed drinks-to-go. The final vote was 187-14. The bill now moves to the Pennsylvania Senate for consideration.

Slightly more than a year ago, the Pennsylvania legislature moved a similar bill to allow such sales on a temporary basis, providing a lifeline to help struggling establishments keep their heads above the water a little longer 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.

With the success that this new opportunity had during the past year, it makes sense to allow our establishments to continue offering mixed drinks-to-go to consumers on a permanent basis.

There’s no doubt that 2020 will turn out to be one of the worst years – if not the worst – of anyone’s life. The pandemic and its mitigation orders did considerable damage. Lives, businesses, and jobs were lost as the world got hit with the worst public health crisis in a century. Productivity dropped. Socialization decreased. Simply put, 2020 was not fun for any of us.

However, the pandemic forced many industries to innovate. As crazy as this might sound, one of the innovative breakthroughs and bright spots of the year for our industry was the cocktail-to-go … something so simple that it makes you wonder why licensed establishments couldn’t do this before.

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association thanks Rep. Masser for taking the lead on this latest legislation. And, we thank the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for passing HB 1154. Our Association encourages the Pennsylvania Senate to take up this bill in a timely manner, and further support small business taverns and licensed restaurants by making mixed drinks-to-go a permanent right of licensed 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.

By in Latest News Comments Off on Statement: PaTaverns on Gov. Wolf lifting orders on May 31

Statement: PaTaverns on Gov. Wolf lifting orders on May 31

Chuck Moran, Executive Director

The following is a statement from Chuck Moran, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, concerning today’s announcement from the Wolf Administration and COVID-19 Joint Task Force that mitigation orders will be listed on May 31.

Today we learned from the Governor’s Office that the Wolf administration in coordination with the COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force will lift mitigation orders with the exception of masking on Monday, May 31, at 12:01 a.m. Masking will continue until 70 percent of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated.

Pennsylvania’s small business taverns and licensed restaurants are certainly ready for this change as the past 14 months have been some of the worst in industry history. There are countless stories of financial ruin and jobs lost.

But now the time has come in which we can move into a full recovery mode. It’s time to make the come back greater than the set back.

In recent months, our state legislature and administration have been working with our industry to help it survive and recover. We’re thankful for that assistance but want to remind both chambers and the Governor’s Office that the help shouldn’t stop just because mitigation orders targeting the industry appear to be coming to a close. There’s more work to be done, moving bills to bring back all patrons and rebuild a healthy industry again.

Speaking of patrons, as many tavern owners know, it was the support of patrons ordering take-out or buying gift cards during the roughest days of mitigation orders that allowed many establishments to keep their heads above water. The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association thanks all patrons who supported our Member establishments during the past year.

Finally, the PLBTA thanks all of its Members who stood with the Association as we navigated the past year together. We look forward to continuing to work on behalf of our Member 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.

 

By in Latest News Comments Off on Testimony: PaTaverns and Licensed Restaurants Oppose Sale of Liquor Products By Beer Distributors

Testimony: PaTaverns and Licensed Restaurants Oppose Sale of Liquor Products By Beer Distributors

Tom Tyler, President, PLBTA

The Pennsylvania Senate Law & Justice Committee and Pennsylvania House Liquor Control Committee held a joint public hearing to receive testimony on the issue of ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs). Pasted below is written testimony from Tom Tyler, president of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. Mr. Tyler owns McStew’s Irish Sports Pub in Bucks County.

 

Chairmen Regan and Metzgar, Chairmen Brewster and Deasey, members of the Senate Law and Justice and Liquor Control  Committees, thank you for allowing the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association to provide testimony concerning proposed legislation to allow Ready to Drink (RTD) product manufacturers to distribute their products for sale through the PLCB or through the existing three-tier system .

The Tavern Association represents more than 400 small business taverns, pubs, and licensed restaurants across the state. Most of our Members own “R” and “H” licenses while some may have an “E” or even a club license.  For the most part, we are your local bars, taverns, pubs, and licensed restaurants.  We do not actively recruit large chains, grocery stores, or convenience stores which also may have R licenses.

In terms of business, our average Member makes a living primarily from alcohol sales. Based on our Membership studies, about 63 percent of their business is alcohol sales including liquor and malt beverages and 37% of sales are from food.

Historically, the state and stakeholders in the alcoholic beverage industry have agreed that within the three-tier system beer distributors would sell malt beverages, while state stores and other liquor licensees would sell wine and spirits products.

At one time, there was also agreement that beer distributors would sell larger volumes of malt beverages, while “R” licenses would sell smaller amounts, typically up to the equivalent of two six-packs.

Many tavern and licensed restaurant owners bought into that historic agreement, and willingly invested savings to purchase their properties, and licenses, built their businesses based on expectations under the existing law.

Act 39 broke that agreement in the name of customer convenience – on one side – when beer distributors were given the right to sell down to a single bottle, and given opportunities for them to sell slushies to go.  R and H licensees were still limited to 192 oz. of malt and brewed beverages, and clubs were still barred from even selling six packs.

A study conducted by the Tavern Association in 2019 to measure the impact of Act 39 on our Members discovered the following:

  • 75% saw a drop in six-packs-to-go sales
  • 81% indicated an overall drop in beer sales
  • 32.5% saw a drop up to 10 percent in beer sales
  • 29.2% had a drop up to 20 percent in beer sales

The sudden financial losses seen by many taverns and licensed restaurants across the state went hand-in-hand with the broken historic agreement.

And, then came the pain of COVID-19 closures, while beer distributors (and some R licensees like grocery stores and convenience stores) were allowed to remain open, further expanding their sales in those “to go” markets for beer and wine, and taking business from our members. That was like pouring salt in a wound.

Now, as we understand the proposed legislation, it would  allow beer distributors to sell ready-to-drink cocktails to go, again modifying the historic agreement amongst the industry, and expanding their markets, while being another gut punch to Pennsylvania taverns and licensed restaurants. It effectively would give beer distributors their first entry into selling liquor.

We do not know if this proposal would prevent beer distributors from creating to-go slushies with these products, much like they do with malt-based products.  But I can already see customers driving home from a beer distributor with a Malibu Pina Colada slushy.

If it is the committee’s interest to permit beer distributors to get into liquor sales, then a much bigger conversation should be held to discuss balancing the playing field for all parties involved on all licensee issues.

For example, because beer distributors may now sell as little as a single bottle of beer, we would suggest R, H, and E licenses should be allowed to sell more than the 192-ounces now allowed. And maybe the time has come to allow clubs to sell six-packs-to-go to their Members. Should grocery stores be allowed to sell liquor bottles like the state stores? Do we get out of the business of beer distributors and state stores as we know them today, and move into businesses like Liquor Barn that can be found in Kentucky?

These are all very good and fair questions, as Pennsylvania plans changes to the way it delivers alcohol products to consumers.  But until those larger questions are answered, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association will oppose legislation that expands beer distributors rights at the expense of bars, taverns, restaurants  and club license holders … or that tilts the playing field even more instead of leveling the playing field for all licensees.  At this time, as we understand it, the Tavern Association cannot support RTD legislation that would allow beer distributors entry into selling liquor products.

We look forward to discussions of how R, H, E and club licensees can recover from the losses created by state orders during the 2020-21 Covid-19 response, how the Commonwealth can ensure all licensees have a level playing field in marketing and sales of alcoholic beverages, expand consumer convenience, and engage in those larger discussions over the future over Pennsylvania’s spirits, wine, and malt beverage economy.

Again, thank you for this opportunity to share our thoughts and concerns.

By in Latest News Comments Off on STATEMENT: Pennsylvania Taverns applaud State House today for passing bills to support industry recovery

STATEMENT: Pennsylvania Taverns applaud State House today for passing bills to support industry recovery

The following is a statement from Chuck Moran, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, concerning today’s votes in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on HB 425 and HB 427. 

  

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association applauds the State House of Representatives for passing HB 425 and HB 427 this afternoon, both by votes of 201-0.

HB 427, sponsored by now-retired Rep. Jeff Pyle, was highly endorsed by Pennsylvania Taverns, and would increase the discount licensed establishments receive from state stores when purchasing liquor products. Currently, taverns and licensed restaurants receive a 10 percent discount. This bill would increase the discount to 15 percent for three years, and has been a priority of our Association as part of the industry’s recovery phase.

HB 425, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Dowling, was also supported by the PLBTA and allows a licensee that is either closed for a long period of time or closes permanently to sell their liquor or wine to another licensee, helping those who did not survive the crisis.

It has been widely recognized that the tavern and restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, and has been in survival mode since March 2020. Now, with the continued success of the vaccine rollout, and mitigation orders being safely eased, there does appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

But, it’s a long tunnel and we’re not at the end of it yet. However, we have started to move into the recovery phase, which is why HB 427 is an important piece of legislative puzzle for those that have survived and are looking to rebuild their businesses.

Both bills now head to the State Senate. The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association encourages our Senate leaders to move both bills in a timely manner to help aid the industry’s recovery. 

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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.

 

By in Latest News Comments Off on Statement: Governor announces a step towards normalcy for PaTaverns and PaRestaurants

Statement: Governor announces a step towards normalcy for PaTaverns and PaRestaurants

Chuck Moran, Executive Director

The following is a statement from Chuck Moran, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, concerning today’s announcement from Governor Wolf to ease COVID-19 restrictions on Pennsylvania taverns and restaurants.

 

Last week in formal communications with Governor Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association made the point that the time had come to take a step or two towards normalcy, asking him to move last call to a later time, allow bar top seating, remove food requirements, and increase occupancy limits, in licensees’ establishments where safety protocols are followed.

As our neighboring states were relaxing different types of industry restrictions, Pennsylvania’s small business taverns and licensed restaurants were being put at a competitive disadvantage, particularly those near the state line.

With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines improving, and more Americans receiving their shots, it would make sense to begin efforts to repair the Pennsylvania economy by safely easing some restrictions.

Our Association was pleased today that Governor Wolf heard our message. Effective April 4, taverns and restaurants may resume bar service; alcohol service will be allowed without the purchase of food; the curfew for removing alcoholic drinks from tables will be lifted; and indoor dining capacity will be raised to 75 percent for those restaurants that are currently self-certified and those that undergo the self-certification process. Those establishments that are not self-certified may raise capacity to 50 percent.

Needless to say, it has been a very long year for mom-and-pop taverns and licensed restaurants, which have been the tip of the spear in this fight against COVID-19. And, while we celebrate the news today, we do so with caution realizing the virus is still here. As the light at the end of the tunnel appears a little brighter today, it is our hope that with continued success from our country’s medical scientists and the rollout of the vaccine, that we’ll be out of this dark place soon.

But for now, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association is pleased that our Members will soon see some restrictions eased.

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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.

By in Latest News Comments Off on Formal letter to governor: PaTaverns at competitive disadvantage with other states

Formal letter to governor: PaTaverns at competitive disadvantage with other states

Chuck Moran, Executive Director

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association today delivered a formal letter to Governor Tom Wolf, indicating our state’s taverns and licensed restaurants are now at a competitive disadvantage as neighboring states ease industry COVID-19 restrictions.

Below is a copy of the letter.

 

March 10, 2021

The Honorable Thomas Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
508 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120

Dear Governor Wolf,

Today, I had a conversation with a tavern owner who owns two establishments. One is in Waverly, NY, while the other is in Sayre, PA. The owner explained that her two locations are about one mile apart (1.3 miles or a two-minute drive according to MapQuest). Essentially, they’re in the same town and have the same patrons. Her establishment in New York will soon be at 75% indoor occupancy, while her Pennsylvania location will be left behind at 25%.

I’m sure there are similar stories in Southwestern Pennsylvania now that West Virginia has indicated they will allow 100% indoor occupancy. In addition, Maryland, New Jersey and Ohio have recently eased their restrictions.

As our neighboring states relax different types of industry restrictions, it puts Pennsylvania’s small business taverns and licensed restaurants at a competitive disadvantage, particularly those near the state line.

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association has appreciated your efforts to find $145 million to create grants that will help the industry we represent. But what we hear the most from our Members is how they really just want to earn their living.

To help these mom-and-pop businesses compete with establishments in nearby out-of-state communities, we urge you to please ease off some restrictions soon.

We ask you to move last call to a later time, allow bar top seating, remove food requirements, and increase occupancy limits, in licensees’ establishments where safety protocols are followed.

It’s been a long year for this industry as it found itself at the tip of the spear in the fight against COVID. Now, with the vaccine distribution progressing and COVID data improving, we are at a better place. With the one-year anniversary quickly approaching when you first ordered dine-in service closed, it would be nice to safely take a step or two towards normalcy by easing some industry restrictions.

Sincerely,
Chuck Moran
Executive Director

By in Latest News Comments Off on Harrisburg Check-in – Getting to know Sen. Mike Regan

Harrisburg Check-in – Getting to know Sen. Mike Regan

Sen. Mike Regan

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association recently sat down with Sen. Mike Regan to learn more about his perspective on the liquor industry and the current political landscape. Sen. Regan is chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, which oversees the state’s liquor laws, and is a key committee for the tavern industry. He serves the 31st District including parts of York and Cumberland counties.

PLBTA: Thinking back to your first elected position, what motivated you to run for public office?
MR: I’ve spent my entire career working to protect our families and helping make our community better. For 23 years I was in the United States Marshals Service, served as the Task Force Commander and then as the U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, then I became a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Now I am committed to being a strong leader in the Senate, and addressing the challenges and opportunities facing our families. I am passionate about protecting the taxpayers and our communities, and it’s something I have spent my life doing.

PLBTA: What made you particularly interested in chairing the Senate Law & Justice Committee?
MR: The Senate Law & Justice Committee has oversight over Pennsylvania’s liquor laws and there are aspects and issues that are important to me. My past service as a U.S. Marshal provides me with a unique insight into issues facing law enforcement, so I also look forward to exploring the oversight the committee has on the Pennsylvania State Police as well as municipal police issues.

PLBTA: Do you have an agenda for the Law & Justice Committee this legislative session? Are there issues that you see as needing addressed?
MR: I believe Pennsylvania has come a long way in modernizing our liquor laws as well as the LCB, but I believe there is still more work to be done. Consumer convenience is an important issue for me, and I think the committee will try to work to expand the current convenience and product choice.

PLBTA: Perhaps no other industry has suffered more or longer from Covid-19 mitigation orders than the small bars, taverns and restaurants who feel they have been unfairly targeted. All four caucuses said they want to help these mom and pop operations, but nothing was done last fall. Do you see the General Assembly and Governor working together to help save this industry early in 2021?
MR: I agree the industry has suffered greatly and small businesses were treated unfairly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I do think that as a body, the legislature needs to come together to aid these struggling businesses who have been unfairly penalized this past year.

PLBTA: Do you see any of the Covid-19 changes (drinks to go, extended outdoor seating) being extended or becoming permanent options?
MR: There have been precedents set in states like Ohio, where drinks to go have become permanent. I think the issue will be further vetted and debated throughout this legislative session. I look forward to working with my colleagues in both the Senate and the House to bring consensus to these issues.

PLBTA: In recent years, you’ve taken the lead on legislation related to cannabis-infused drinks. Please tell us your interest in this category of alcohol.
MR: Unfortunately, on many issues Pennsylvania finds itself playing a game of catch-up and the goal here is to take a pre-emptive measure for/if recreational marijuana is legalized. Recreational marijuana has been legalized in states across the country and these drinks already exist. Similar pre-emptive measures were taken for sports betting to ensure PGCB oversight.

PLBTA: What can tavern owners do to help convince legislators to support them and get the changes they need from the PLCB and state government?
MR: I encourage tavern owners to call and meet with their legislators and inform them of the issues they are facing. As elected officials we want to hear from the people on the ground so we can better understand their needs and how to help them.

PLBTA: As you know, our Members are mostly Mom-and-Pop operations. When they look around their hometowns, they see that the local hardware store has closed, the independent doctor was bought out by a hospital chain, and the neighborhood grocery store is no more. They worry that their industry is next. Do you ever worry about the loss of small businesses in our communities?
MR: I have been a long-time supporter of Mom-and-Pop operations and small businesses. It’s always said that small business is the backbone of our economy, and I believe that is especially true for the neighborhood bar and restaurant that supports the local charities, little leagues and is always there to lend a hand. I think these local establishments are invaluable to the communities they serve – I plan to do what I can to make sure these multi-generational family businesses are on a level playing field.

 

The above Q&A appeared in the March 2021 edition of Pennsylvania Beverage Media, the official magazine of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. Members receive this monthly magazine as a benefit of membership.

By in Latest News Comments Off on Statement: Path Paved for $145 Million Hospitality Industry Grant Bill For Governor’s Signature

Statement: Path Paved for $145 Million Hospitality Industry Grant Bill For Governor’s Signature

Chuck Moran, Executive Director

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.

 

By in Latest News Comments Off on PLBTA Written Testimony For State House Commerce Committee On Pandemic Mitigation Orders Impact On PaTaverns

PLBTA Written Testimony For State House Commerce Committee On Pandemic Mitigation Orders Impact On PaTaverns

On February 3, 2021, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association testified in front of the State House Commerce Committee concerning the negative impact COVID-19 mitigation orders are having on small business taverns and restaurants. Representing the PLBTA was Tom Tyler, president of the Association and owner of McStew’s Irish Sports Pub in Bucks County.

During the hearing, Tom shared with the committee members stories from our grassroots, which can be found by clicking here. In addition, the Association submitted formal testimony, which follows.

 

Testimony: Industry Survival
and Recovery Needs
to Preserve Businesses and Jobs

Presented to
Pennsylvania House
Commerce Committee

On
February 3, 2021

By
Thomas Tyler, President, PLBTA
McStew’s Irish Sports Pub, Owner

Chairman Roae, Chairman Galloway, members of the Committee, good morning. I’m Tom Tyler, president of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. I also own McStew’s Irish Sports Pub in Bucks County.

Let me begin by thanking you for inviting the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association to testify today about the struggles our industry faces as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and state orders. We appreciate being here to share the story of our Members and industry.

The Tavern Association represents more than 400 small business taverns, pubs, and licensed restaurants across the state. Most of our Members own “R” and “H” licenses while some may have an “E” or even a club license. For the most part, we are your local bars, taverns, pubs, and licensed restaurants. We do not actively recruit large chains, grocery stores, or convenience stores which also may have an R license.

In terms of business, our average Member makes a living primarily from alcohol sales. Based on our Membership studies, about 63 percent of their business is alcohol sales and 37% of sales are from food.

Our average member employs about 16 people, including the owner and family members. They serve less than 4,000 customers every month. If you count the chairs and barstools, throughout the Member establishments, you’ll find less than 100.

Simply put, our Members are your locally-owned, mom-and-pop neighborhood businesses.

For the sake of overall industry data, looking at the state list of active R, H and E licenses, there are about 9,400 licensees that are not grocery stores, convenience stores or large chains. These are primarily small businesses. And the impacts of the prevention and mitigation orders on them are extremely different than the impacts on those other types of restaurants and licensees.

Knowing that my average Member employs about 16 individuals, Pennsylvania’s small business R, H and E licensees create around 150,000 jobs. And more than half are women, many are single mothers.

Last year, we surveyed small business licensed restaurants and taverns to learn more about how the COVID-19 crisis was impacting their businesses. Our study clearly shows the struggle these establishments are having. Our study also supports findings we’ve seen from national-level studies.

For example, on average, 13 employees per establishment lost their jobs at some point during the pandemic as a result of COVID-19 Orders. That’s on a par with national studies that estimated 81 percent of industry employees were laid off or furloughed as a result of the pandemic orders. When just considering our small business R and H license locations, the state orders likely resulted in about 110,000 jobs lost in Pennsylvania – before considering the many companies that supply food, alcohol and services to our members.

Our survey also found that without any change in the state’s COVID-19 order, there’s a good chance that as high as 70 percent of our members may not survive. This includes more than one out of six that are either already closed and those who will be forced to close as the pandemic’s mitigation orders continue in 2021.

One key point to remember about this segment of the industry is what I mentioned very early in this testimony. Most of our business – 63 percent on the average – is related to the sale of alcohol. Our profit margins are from 3-5% in good times.

When mitigation orders set an early last call, reduce indoor capacity, and take away bar seating, it’s very easy to make the connection that small business taverns and licensed restaurants will see a significant financial loss since the largest portion of their business is being suppressed. Thus, the results from our survey clearly should be anticipated.

What my Members really want is to work at full capacity. They’re not looking for another loan.

But, since operating at 100 percent is not going to be allowed anytime soon – or at least until there’s widespread distribution of the vaccine – they have no choice but to seek survival and then recovery help to make up for not being allowed to use their licenses at 100 percent.

We are now in the coldest months of the year which makes outdoor seating problematic. This comes right after holiday mitigation orders closed indoor service, resulting in significant financial loss.

This combination makes it particularly important for the legislature to take action now to help the industry financially.

Based upon our survey, we know that a high percentage of Members believe grants are needed to help pay bills and make up for lost revenue due to mitigation orders. This is fair for R and H licenses holders to ask. They’ve been told that they must limit their indoor service to either 25 or 50 percent, but they also have bills such as electricity and mortgages that must be paid at 100 percent. I have to note that all four caucuses and the Governor, in the weeks leading up to the November elections, called for grant programs to assist our members, ranging from $145 million to $400 million. And now its five months and another shutdown later, without any help. While corporations and franchises may be able to function at near normal, our members cannot. Our business models are different – McStews is not McDonalds, and none of our members businesses are based strictly on take out sales of beer and wine like retailers and convenience stores.

Loan programs will not help our members. They have already borrowed in their efforts to remain viable during the continuing changes from shutdowns to partial openings, to further shutdowns and several variations in between.

Outside of industry-specific grants, reasonable actions the state can easily take to relieve some financial burdens are as follows:

1. Increase the state wholesale discount from 10 to at least 15%
2. Allow those with a small games of chance license to retain all revenues from the sale of such games, similar to what was done last year for clubs. And consider possible expansion of small games of chance.
3. Waive licensing fees beyond this year. Saying that, please understand that waiving license fees is insignificant in terms of the costs we’ve already incurred. These fees amount to $600-1,500 per licensee, about as much as one good weekend night’s profits.

More complicated, but certainly something the legislature should investigate, would be relieving the industry of unemployment claim charges, eliminate sales tax payments or at least eliminate fees and penalties for late payments.

The legislature should also take a serious look at increasing gaming revenue by legalizing VGTs and/or skill games in taverns. This would benefit both the state and taverns.

Outside of financial help, as distribution of the vaccines increase, we would urge the easing off mitigation orders.

Specifically, we would like to see taverns be allowed to seat individuals at bar tops again, provided establishments follow appropriate social distancing rules or use barriers. Many had already spent money to make these changes before the rules were changed for them.

Our smallest establishments typically have very little table seating and no outdoor seating. This change would help our smallest taverns survive.

Industry survival is not a partisan matter, and we know that both Republicans and Democrats are concerned for our future – and our communities. You demonstrated your concern early last year when you passed legislation to allow the sale of mixed drinks to go on a temporary basis. And, we appreciate that opportunity. We would urge that sales of mixed drinks to go be made permanent, which other states are now doing, and that the temporary rules on outdoor dining be extended permanently as well.

More legislative help is needed, and it’s needed quickly.

Our industry is in financial distress. Our local taverns and licensed restaurants need help if they are going to make it through this crisis and save jobs.

Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony, and I welcome questions.