Retail licensees encouraged to review, abide by license requirements to avoid suspension
Harrisburg – Under new authority granted to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) by Act 44 of 2017, the PLCB today announced its Licensee Compliance Program, through which the agency will educate licensees about existing license requirements and suspend the license privileges of licensees who fail to meet those requirements.
Act 44 newly authorizes the PLCB to immediately take away a licensed establishment’s ability to sell and serve alcohol when PLCB analysts find that a licensee doesn’t meet existing requirements in law or regulation related to seating, food, square footage, rooms, and health license authority. Previously, the PLCB had no enforcement authority and was limited to objecting to licenses when they came up for renewal.
“While our new ability to suspend licensees’ operating privileges became effective earlier this month, we know how important it is to educate licensees about what is expected of them and explain how the PLCB will approach complaints and suspensions,” said PLCB Chairman Tim Holden. “We’ve developed a number of resources and fact sheets to help licensees and their communities understand license requirements and the consequences of not abiding by those requirements.”
While Act 44’s new authorities for the PLCB were primarily driven by an interest in addressing so-called stop-n-gos in the Philadelphia area, the PLCB has established Licensee Compliance Program policies and procedures that will be followed uniformly across the commonwealth.
The PLCB has developed a website, www.lcb.pa.gov/licenseecompliance, that features a number of resources explaining the Licensee Compliance Program to licensees and the public. Fact sheets detail the following:
- The kinds of license compliance issues the PLCB will investigate;
- License requirements for various license types;
- What kinds and amounts of food are sufficient for restaurant and eating place licensees;
- The process by which the PLCB will collect complaints, pursue investigations, and suspend operating privileges; and
- Licensees’ appeal rights.
Licensees are being directly informed of the Licensee Compliance Program by email, and the PLCB is distributing information about the new program to various industry and community groups to spread awareness.
In order to allow licensees time to understand and come into compliance with license requirements, the PLCB will begin investigating license compliance complaints in January 2018.
At that time, the PLCB will begin unannounced on-site investigations of licensees about which the agency has received complaints.
Residents are encouraged to visit www.lcb.pa.gov/licenseecompliance to review the kinds of complaints the PLCB can address and report license deficiencies to RA-LBCompliance@pa.gov.
When the PLCB finds a deficiency as a result of an on-site inspection, the investigator will notify the licensee of the deficiency or problem and suspend operating privileges. The licensee will then have the opportunity to resolve the issue to regain operating privileges upon re-inspection. In cases where the PLCB refuses to reinstate operating privileges because of a continued or unaddressed deficiency, the licensee may request a hearing before Commonwealth Court.
“It is our sincere hope that licensees who are good community partners will take this opportunity to self-assess and ensure compliance with license requirements,” said Holden. “Those that don’t will face consequences and will lose their license privileges.”
The PLCB regulates the distribution of beverage alcohol in Pennsylvania, operates more than 600 wine and spirits stores statewide, and licenses 20,000 alcohol producers, retailers, and handlers. The PLCB also works to reduce and prevent dangerous and underage drinking through partnerships with schools, community groups, and licensees. Taxes and store profits – totaling $15.8 billion since the agency’s inception – are returned to Pennsylvania’s General Fund, which finances Pennsylvania’s schools, health and human services programs, law enforcement, and public safety initiatives, among other important public services. The PLCB also provides financial support for the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, other state agencies, and local municipalities across the state. For more information about the PLCB, visit www.lcb.pa.gov.