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Taverns Education: Can An Underage Employee Handle Unopened Wine?

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Taverns Education: Can An Underage Employee Handle Unopened Wine?

So, you have an employee working in your establishment who hasn’t yet turned 18 years of age. Can they handle an unopened bottle of wine when working? Is there any type of unopened adult beverage they can handle?

According to a July 2022 Advisory Opinion from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the simple answer is no.

Generally, only persons over the age of sixteen may be employed by restaurant licensees to work in licensed establishments. 47 P.S. § 4-493(13). To be employed as a bartender or to otherwise serve or dispense alcohol in a licensed retail establishment, a person must be at least eighteen years of age.

Sixteen and seventeen-year-olds may be employed on retail licensed premises to serve food, clear tables, and perform other similar duties. The PLCB has interpreted this to mean that sixteen or seventeen-year-old employees may clear glasses or pitchers from tables, including those that have alcoholic beverages left in them.

However, sixteen or seventeen-year-olds may not participate in any part of a transaction involving alcohol, as this would constitute the service of alcohol. Thus, the PLCB’s Chief Counsel Office has opined that it would be unlawful for a sixteen or seventeen-year-old to “ring up” a sale of alcohol even if the employee does not actually touch the alcoholic beverages.

Neither the Liquor Code nor the PLCB’s Regulations permit a sixteen or seventeen-year-old employee of a restaurant licensee to handle alcoholic beverages unless it is for the purpose of clearing a table. Therefore, the host or hostess must be at least eighteen years of age to retrieve a bottle of wine and give it to a server.

The PLCB noted that the Crimes Code prohibits any minor who is under the age of twenty-one from possessing or knowingly and intentionally transporting alcoholic beverages.

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