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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 PLBTA President Speaks At Industry Rally

PLBTA President Speaks At Industry Rally

Tom Tyler, 2021-22 President of PLBTA and owner of McStew’s Irish Sports Pub

The following speech was given by PLBTA President Tom Tyler, owner of McStew’s Irish Sports Pub in Levittown, Pa.  His speech was given at an industry rally on the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capitol on November 18, 2020. The rally was held to support taverns and restaurants suffering from the state’s COVID-19 mitigation orders.

 

Good afternoon. It is great to see all of you have come out to have your voices heard! My name is Tom Tyler, president of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association and owner of McStew’s Irish Sports Pub in Levittown Bucks County. It’s an honor to speak on the steps of our Capitol today as our industry comes together as one single loud voice to fight for its survival.

Since day one of this crisis, taverns, restaurants, clubs, and brew pubs have been the tip of the spear in the fight against COVID-19. In March we were asked to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, And we agreed to do our part. What started out as two weeks to slow the spread has turned into endless mitigation efforts destroying our industry. In the beginning we were asked to sacrifice, now we are being sacrificed!

We have played a key role in this fight. Again, we have done our part. But our industry continues to be targeted unlike any other. And not because the science says we should as the state’s own contact tracing numbers continue to show transmission of the virus in bars and restaurants is very low!

Over the last 8 months we’ve watched our businesses go into a downward spiral with little help from Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Yes, I’m grateful the state has waived my licensing fees for 2021. Yes, I’m grateful that taverns and licensed restaurants can sell mixed drinks to go. But…it’s not nearly enough to save small business taverns and licensed restaurants from going out of business.

There has been a lot of talk of a vaccine in the news recently. That is promising for the future. But until then, many more establishments will hang “for sale” signs out as they watch their businesses close under the financial pressures being caused by mitigation orders.

We have heard repeatedly the governor and our legislators acknowledge the sacrifice our industry has made. But their words won’t pay our bills and the time for words is over, it’s time for action!

The state legislature needs to provide an industry bailout and other meaningful measures to provide much needed funds and lifelines to help our struggling establishments pay their rent…. Pay their mortgages….. pay their utilites…..and most importantly, to keep and pay their employees! The state is still sitting on 1.3 billion dollars in Federal cares money. We want our share of those federal dollars. We deserve our share of those dollars!

On behalf of all small business taverns and licensed restaurants across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association calls upon our state legislature to act now! Don’t wait any longer! We are out of time! We need help now!

Let me finish by saying that the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association stands proudly, here today, with our industry partners including clubs, restaurants, and brew pubs. We’re all in this together!

Thank you!

By in Latest News Comments Off on PLBTA Tip: Mask Confusion

PLBTA Tip: Mask Confusion

Christine Nentwig of CGA Law Firm

The requirement that customers and employees wear facemasks in restaurants and retail food establishments was initially set forth in Pennsylvania’s May 2020 restaurant industry guidance, and is consistent with CDC guidance stating that wearing masks in public places will help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

While there is substantial support for masks as a tool for combating the spread of the COVID-19, such support is not universal. Many individuals and businesses are opposed to masks, citing individual rights, medical restrictions, and a variety of other reasons for their refusal to wear masks.

This resistance places business owners in a difficult position, as they struggle to balance their legal and licensing obligations with customer resistance, complaints, and boycotts.

These efforts are complicated by conflicting and often inaccurate information on social media, which has created significant confusion and given rise to many questions regarding how businesses should respond to mask complaints and refusals, including:

Q: Can I as a business owner require customers and employees to wear masks in my restaurant or food establishment?
A: Yes, all businesses in the retail food services industry are required to adhere to state guidance. Those who do not comply risk penalties, including suspension or revocation of licenses.

Q: What if a customer tells me that he/she cannot be forced to wear a mask because it violates his/her constitutional rights?
A: Requiring patrons and employees to wear a mask is a public safety measure that does not infringe on any individual’s constitutional rights and does not violate any of the civil rights and liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

Q: I have been told that I cannot ask any patron or employee who is not wearing a mask if they have a medical condition that prevents them from doing so because it will violate HIPAA.
A: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies to protected health information in the possession of a healthcare provider and other very limited circumstances. HIPAA does not apply to business owners in this context.

Q: Doesn’t the ADA prevent me from requiring customers or employees to wear a mask?
A: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to most businesses, and may be implicated in some instances. There is substantial confusion, however, about the extent to which the ADA allows customers and/or employees to simply refuse to wear masks.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants and other food service establishments. Title I prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the employment context.

In both cases, businesses must consider requests for reasonable accommodation, and are legally permitted to request medical information to support such requests. For customers, businesses may make a verbal inquiry regarding the reason the person cannot wear a mask – but generally should not require written medical documentation. For employees, employers may (and in most cases should) require written medical certification supporting the need for accommodation.

It is important to note, however, that while a business must consider a valid request, it is not required to grant the specific accommodation requested where a viable alternative exists.

Given the risks posed by noncompliance with mask mandates, businesses may wish to consider offering alternatives to customers who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, including offering delivery, curbside pickup, or face shields. For employees, an employer may offer accommodations such as face shields, remote work, or other workplace modifications that separate them from others.

While business owners anxiously await a return to relative normalcy and a day when mask requirements are a thing of the past, those facing “mask confusion” should be sure to separate fact from fiction and evaluate each request based on facts and the appropriate applicable law.

This article was written by Christine Nentwig of CGA Law Firm, a preferred vendor of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. CGA Law Firm has an experienced team of PLCB attorneys available to licensees throughout Pennsylvania to answer questions regarding the new requirements and license suspension process, discuss the steps necessary to ensure compliance, and provide representation and counsel in resolving PLCB suspensions and citations. To reach CGA Law Firm, call (717) 848-4900.

*Any opinion expressed in the article is not to be construed as legal advice to any individual or entity.

The above story appears in the December 2020 edition of our magazine, Pennsylvania Beverage Media.

 

 

By in Latest News Comments Off on Survey Results: Small Business Taverns, Licensed Restaurants Severely Damaged Due To Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Order

Survey Results: Small Business Taverns, Licensed Restaurants Severely Damaged Due To Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Order

A survey of small business taverns and licensed restaurants indicates Pennsylvania could see a significant loss of locally owned establishments from closings as a result of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Orders.

The survey, conducted by the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association between August 25 and August 28, 2020, included 10 questions exploring financial difficulties.

Most troubling are indications that only 30 percent of the participating neighborhood-based establishments might survive the crisis. This is consistent with national surveys suggesting a possible loss of 70 percent of establishments.

In the PLBTA survey, participants were asked “Without any change to the Governor’s Order or financial assistance from the state and/or federal government, which best describes the future of your business after September 2020?”

Thirteen percent are already closed. Another five percent indicated they will close within a month, while 29 percent say they will likely close by the end of the year and 23 percent say they will likely close in 2021. Only 30 percent said they would not close.

Major layoffs and furloughs were also identified in the survey, again along the same lines as national studies. On average of those establishments participating in the survey, 13 employees per location lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 Orders. When extrapolated across the industry, considering small business R and H license locations alone, about 109,200 Pennsylvania jobs were lost.

Financially, July 2020 proved to be troubling. The average establishment completing this survey lost $227,179 in July 2020 compared to July 2019.

Only 29 percent of the survey participants said they have not faced any cash flow problems. That suggests 71 percent have had difficulty paying bills including rent, utilities, and loan repayments.

“These results shouldn’t surprise anyone,” said Chuck Moran, executive director of the PLBTA. “When you’re limited to 25 percent indoor capacity and have seen increased expenses along with other difficulties due to state orders, you can expect a serious crisis to develop. This industry can’t sustain itself under these conditions. Changes in state restrictions along with survival and recovery financial packages are needed.”

The survey also explored other business-related difficulties including food and beer deliveries as well as supply deliveries for items such as paper products and cleaning items.

Of those participating in the survey, 89 percent were small business, single-location establishments, while eight percent were small businesses with more than one location. All own either an “R” or “H” liquor license. Three percent were clubs with club liquor licenses. No national or regional chains participated in the survey.

A total of 1,234 invitations to take the survey were sent statewide. There were 100 businesses that completed the survey during the three days. As a result, this survey has a 10% margin of error with a 95% confidence level when considering small business R and H licensees in Pennsylvania.

Working members of the media may request a copy of the results by emailing pataverns@pataverns.com. Please include your name and media affiliation.

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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 Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association Renews Its Call For State To Set Up Special Relief Program For Tavern, Restaurant Industry

Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association Renews Its Call For State To Set Up Special Relief Program For Tavern, Restaurant Industry

(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:

  1. 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.
  2. Elimination of all license fees and surcharges for liquor-related service establishments for two years, provided the establishment had previously allowed on-site consumption.
  3. Elimination of all small games of chance license fees for R, H, E, and clubs for two years.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Permanent acceptance of mixed drinks-to-go as a business practice under the state Liquor Laws.
  8. 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.
  9. Encourage outdoor seating by making the free temporary licensed premise extensions permanent at no additional cost to the licensee.
  10. 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.
  11. Modernize the state’s sanitation requirements to require tap cleaning once every 14 days.
  12. Cap third-party delivery charges for home delivery of meals from all restaurants and taverns.
  13. Increase discount that licensed establishments receive when purchasing liquor through state stores.
  14. Eliminate the $50 minimum purchase requirement at state stores in order for a licensed establishment to receive a discount.

 

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