(Harrisburg, PA – July 20, 2020) In light of revised state-directed COVID-19 orders negatively impacting taverns and licensed restaurants and the industry’s workforce, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association (PLBTA) last week called on the General Assembly and Wolf Administration to create an industry relief package to help these small business establishments.
With the situation becoming more desperate as each day passes, this week the PLBTA again is urging state officials to move quickly to save an industry that is at a tipping point.
“The Tavern Association’s members have suffered as much or more than any other segment of Pennsylvania business and industry since mid-March,” said Chuck Moran, Executive Director of the PLBTA. “Our small business taverns, bars, and licensed restaurants have been closed, then limited in reopening, and been forced to comply with rigid and expensive requirements that make profits impossible, because the state has a hammer over them in licensing through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.”
The costs for these mom and pop operations he noted, which exist on slim profits in the first place, have resulted in the closing of taverns, in the cause of preventing spread of the Covid-19 virus. Many more are barely hanging on, in hopes that reopening would begin to limit their losses. They have complied with every requirement, accepted every closing and limitation, and done their fair share and more to support the state’s effort to slow down the spread of the virus, Moran says
“The Governor’s action last week that threw the industry – and just one segment of the state economy – back into a virtual ‘yellow phase’ has jolted these small businesses, and made it increasingly difficult for them to survive,” Moran said. “State Government needs to recognize the social and economic value of our community-based taverns and licensed restaurants, and provide them with support to avoid the permanent loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
Moran predicts that with the governor’s most recent declaration the industry’s continuing financial hardships will continue likely until either a vaccine or herd immunity is established.
“We’re going to need a bigger lifeboat to save this sinking industry from the jaws of coronavirus,” Moran said. “Outdoor seating – and service of alcoholic beverages only with a meal is not a business model built for survival. Sales of alcoholic beverages comprise the majority of income for many of these businesses, and food sales have been reduced to ten percent of their norm. Loss of both has been devastating. The latest proscriptions for these businesses make it virtually impossible to make a profit while maintaining the jobs they have created. And being realistic, those that can survive through outdoor seating season will experience additional hardships once colder weather arrives in the fall and winter months, making outdoor seating impossible.”
To provide a lifeline to these businesses, today the Tavern Association again called on leaders in Harrisburg to act quickly on a restaurant and tavern industry relief package that would include the following:
- Passage of HB 2615, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R, Montgomery County), creating a Community Cornerstone Grant Program, to provide grants to small business restaurants and taverns to assist with COVID-19-related business losses, and expenses including costs associated with new outdoor seating, educational expenses including trade association memberships, hand sanitizer, staff PPE, indoor separators (plexiglass installation), digital thermometers… etc.
- Elimination of all license fees and surcharges for liquor-related service establishments for two years, provided the establishment had previously allowed on-site consumption.
- Elimination of all small games of chance license fees for R, H, E, and clubs for two years.
- Passage of SB 1194 or similar legislation providing limited civil Immunity from liability for bars, taverns and restaurants that attempt, in good faith, to adhere to the provisions of the COVID-19 emergency declaration, the Governor’s 3-16-2020 COVID-19 Business Closure Order or any other executive order relating to COVID-19, or any guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the Department of Health or the Secretary of Health.
- Creation of a Small Business Tavern and Licensed Restaurant Promotion Program coordinated by both the PLCB and the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association to equal those financed for the beer, wine and spirits craft industries.
- Create a Liquor Licensee Specialty Council consisting of specialty associations within the industry including taverns, clubs, brew pubs, wineries, and distilleries to build future industry/state government dialogue.
- Permanent acceptance of mixed drinks-to-go as a business practice under the state Liquor Laws.
- To save money from delivery charges, allow licensed establishments the ability to pick up and deliver their own malt beverage orders, like the model followed when ordering spirits through the PLCB.
- Encourage outdoor seating by making the free temporary licensed premise extensions permanent at no additional cost to the licensee.
- Encourage outdoor seating expansion and support the entertainment industry by allowing up to 75 decibels of noise on a property line for all establishments with a liquor license, not just some.
- Modernize the state’s sanitation requirements to require tap cleaning once every 14 days.
- Cap third-party delivery charges for home delivery of meals from all restaurants and taverns.
- Increase discount that licensed establishments receive when purchasing liquor through state stores.
- Eliminate the $50 minimum purchase requirement at state stores in order for a licensed establishment to receive a discount.
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