General Information

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

Address:  406 Northwest Office Building Harrisburg, PA 17124-0001 

Phone:   1-800-332-7522

Website: https://www.lcb.pa.gov

 

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) consist of a three member board who are all appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate. As a state that excises control over retail sales there are a variety of responsibilities assigned to the board. These responsibilities include regulating the states beverage alcohol industry, promote social responsibility, alcohol education, sell wines and spirits, and maximize financial returns for the benefit of the state.  

 

 

Liquor control

Liquor Control

Controlled Alcohol: Wine, Beer, and Spirits

 

The state of Pennsylvania tightly regulates the selling and purchasing of wines and spirits. The agency controls the manufacturing, importation, the sale, distribution, and disposition of liquor, alcohol, and malt of brewed beverages in the state. As a result wholesale operations of wine and spirits are controlled by the state and licensees are allowed to purchase their orders from the state-operated Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores, have their orders delivered from the PLCB distribution centers for high-volume licensees, or pickup from one of 12 service centers available for licensees.

 

State law includes a local option for municipalities, but not counties. As of August 2018, 685 Pennsylvania municipalities are at least partially dry according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association.

 

Ordering 

 

The state operated stores maintain an extensive inventory of over 94,000 various wines and spirits. Orders can be placed through Licensee Online Order Portal (LOOP).  LOOP provides some interesting features, such as providing price-per-ounce information so that licensees can compare products, and the system instantly shows licensees how much is saved on an order.

 

If having orders delivered, payment can be made online. However, payment for all pickup orders must be made in-person during pickup. Licensees receive a 10% discount on the purchase price for orders placed through LOOP.

 

Pennsylvania liquor pricing is controlled by state law. There are no additional discounts available beyond the 10% for orders through loop and state law does not allow any promotions. 

 

Licensees can place special orders for products if they aren't available in a local store. Through Special Order, there are thousands of products suppliers have opted to make available and many suppliers make certain wines and spirits available only through Special Order. 

 

Liquor Licensing

Licenses

Obtaining a liquor license in the state of Pennsylvania can be difficult for several reasons. Liquor licenses in this state are based on a statutory quota. This meaning that the number of licenses permitted is restricted by the number of residents in that area. For a change in the number of licenses permitted to occur there would have to be a change in the population in the area you are seeking a license. As a result it is common for those seeking a new license to gain one through the state's Restaurant License Auction.

 

Ways to Obtain A Liquor License 

 

For information on how to obtain a liquor license you must email the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. 

 

Restaurant License Auction 

 

The Restaurant License Auction allows the PLCB to auction off expired licenses to the highest bidder.  The number of licenses available for auction varies, along with the average winning bid. For instance an auction held in March of 2019 had 8 licenses up for auction and the average winning bid was $95,525. On the other hand in August of 2018 there were 25 licenses up for auction and the average winning bid was $73,915. 

 

For information regarding future auctions and the results of previous auctions, click here. Future auctions typically have a deadline set on when bids must be submitted before the auction date. 

 

How to Participate in An Auction 

 

To bid on a license up for auction a bidder must submit a completed bid package. This includes a PLCB Bid Sheet for the particular license, signed and sealed, along with a bid guarantee in the amount of $5,000 (a certified check, cashiers check, or bid bond). The package must then be submitted in a sealed envelop, with your IFB number labeled on the outside, the auction number of the license, and the name of the person or entity bidding. The package must be mailed or hand carried to the below address:

 

PLCB Purchasing & Contract Administration Division

Invitation for Bid #XXXXXX

Northwest Office Building, Room 316

Harrisburg, PA 17124-0001

 

In order to participate in an auction there is a minimum bid of $25,000 for a license. Bid amounts must be in whole dollars and the highest bidder has the right to apply for a transfer of the auctioned license.

Also, you are allowed to bid on more then one license and a separate bid package must be submitted for every license you wish to bid on.  

 

Once all bids are placed, shortly thereafter the bid opening will take place. It is asked that bidders limit attendance to two persons per bidding party and attendance is optional. No awards will be made at the opening but instead through a formal Notice of Selection. 

 

Next Steps for those that won a bid for a license: 

  1. Submit Payment: Those that have won a bid for an expired license have 14 days from the date of Notice of Selection to submit the full bid payment to the PCLB. If the bid payment is not received during that time period then the license will be awarded to the second highest bidder who will then have 14 days to submit there bid payment. 
  2. Application: Winners will then have six months from the time they initially received the Notice of Selection to submit an application. During this time period bids will be held in escrow  pending the approval of the license. 

Below we have listed other methods to obtain an alcoholic beverage license:

 


  • Person-to-Person Transfer: This method allows for the change in Licensee name but the license location remains the same as the original license. This is valid in instances of a change in ownership.
 
  • Place-to-Place Transfer: For a place to place transfer, there is no change in ownership but a change in the licensed premise. This allows for the license to be transferred to a different location. This is valid for business that change locations. 

  • Double Transfer : This method means that there is a change in ownership and location of the license. This requires the applicant to apply to have an existing license to be used at a new location and under new licensee. 

 

License Requirements

 

Restaurant (R)

Minimum Size of Licensed Premise: 400 sq. ft

Food & Seating Requirements:

  • Must have seating and food for at least 30 patrons
  • 30 or more seats must be readily available for the public and should not be concealed or behind locked doors or walls (bar stools are considered as an acceptable form of seating)
  • Seating may not be stacked.
  • Must have dishes and silverware to accommodate at least 30 patrons. 

Health License Requirements: Must have a current and valid health license issued by your governing municipal authority. 

 

Eating Place (E)

Minimum Size of Licensed Premise: 300 sq. ft

Food & Seating Requirements:

  • Must have seating and food for at least 30 patrons
  • 30 or more seats must be readily available for the public and should not be concealed or behind locked doors or walls (bar stools are considered as an acceptable form of seating)
  • Seating may not be stacked.
  • Must have dishes and silverware to accommodate at least 30 patrons. 

Health License Requirements: Must have a current and valid health license issued by your governing municipal authority. 

Room Requirements: A functioning kitchen or food preparation area must be on site

 

Hotel (H)

Minimum Size of Licensed Premise: 400 sq. ft

Food & Seating Requirements:

  • Must have seating and food for at least 30 patrons
  • 30 or more seats must be readily available for the public and should not be concealed or behind locked doors or walls (bar stools are considered as an acceptable form of seating)
  • Seating may not be stacked.
  • Must have dishes and silverware to accommodate at least 30 patrons. 

Health License Requirements: Must have a current and valid health license issued by your governing municipal authority. 

Room Requirements: 

  • A functioning kitchen or food preparation area must be on site
  • Hotel Rooms must be available for transient guest, unless an exemption waiver was granted.

 

 For more information regarding the food regulations, click here. 

 

Important Facts

 

  • Renewal: All Licenses have to be renewed every two years, if a license is not renewed it is considered expired and placed for auction 
  • Protest: Neighbors within 500 ft of a pending restaurant licensee premise may object to the application. 

 

Inspections and Compliance

Inspections

 

Inspections of Licensed Premises are handled by the PLCB's Licensee Compliance Program. Whenever there is a complaint filed against the licensee, a licensing analyst, law enforcement, and or municipal officials will conduct an unannounced on-site visit. Complaints include but are not limited to seating, food, square footage, health license, and violations of other licensee requirements. If there are no violations evident during the inspection an internal report will be completed and will remain in the licensee's official file with the PLCB Bureau of licensing. 

 

License Requirements Violations

 

If there are deficiencies found during your visit they will be documented and addressed in the following manner:

  1. Photos will be taken of the premise and the violations by the analyst 
  2. Depending on the violation(s), a notice of suspension of operation privileges, effective immediately, will be posted on site. The licensee will be provided with the following information regarding there suspension 
    •  Suspension means that the licensee no longer has the ability to sell or serve alcohol under it liquor license
    •  Notification that a follow-up inspection can be requested. If the licensee is able to prove that the deficiencies has been correctly addressed during the follow-up inspection, the suspension notice will be removed and the licensee is allowed to return to normal operating privileges.
      • Follow-up inspections are conducted within 5-10 business days 
      • If deficiencies remain a third inspection will not occur until at least 10 business days has past. 
    • An appeal of the PLCB's decision not to restore operating privileges may be filed with the Commonwealth Court
    •  If the licensed premise is not able to use its operating privileges for 15 days, the licensee must apply for safekeeping in order to prevent loss or auctioning of license.
  3. Every inspection that is performed at the licensed premise will be recorded in the licensee's official file
  4. The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) is notified of all suspensions

 

Repeat Offenders:  Licensed premises that have repeated violations of the license requirements will result in the following actions:

  • 2 Violations in a 12 Month Period: If 2 license violations are discovered within a 12 month period it will result in a minimum license suspension of 20 days. This also means a 20 day period must pass before a follow-up inspection can occur
  • 3 Violations in a 12 Month Period: If 3 license violations are discovered within a 12 month period it will result in a minimum license suspension of 30 days. This also means a 20 day period must pass before a follow-up inspection can occur
Training and Education

Training

There are a variety of different training programs offered by the PCLB. One of their responsibilities include prevention of underage and dangerous drinking. As a way to encourage licensees to participate in the efforts of the PCLB local partners are rewarded Alcohol Education grants for their deterrence efforts. Below we have listed and provided information regarding the various alcohol training programs.

 

Employee training is required in the state of Pennsylvania. For employees of licensed locations, anyone who serves or sells alcoholic beverage and/or checks IDs- including bartenders, waiters, bouncers, doorpersons, etc.-  must complete the RAMP sever/seller training within the first 6 months of their hiring. The only exception is if the employee has successfully completed RAMP server/seller training prior to being hired. 

 

Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP)

 

This program created by the PLCB assist licensees in identifying fake identification cards, tips to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors, and ways to recognize and handle visibly intoxicated patrons, along with understanding the liability these issues present to their business. 

 

RAMP certification can also be required beyond initial hiring and for the following reasons:

  • Any licensee that has been found guilty by the Administrative Law Judge for the sales of alcohol to minors or visibly intoxicated persons. 
  • As a part of a condition licensing Agreement
  • Prior to obtaining a wine expanded permit 

 

There are a variety of different certificate one can earn after completed the RAMP training and they include

 

  • Owner/Manager Training- training that is geared towards those that are most responsible for day to day operations and policies established at the licensed establishment. 
    • RequirementsNew mangers are required to complete the owner/manager training within 180 days of approval appointment by the PLCB, unless the manager has successfully completed the training within the last 2 years. 
    • Availability: This training course is available online and in the classroom once the person has registered for PLCB+

 

  • Server/Seller Training- training for those that sell, serve, and/or check IDs
    • Requirements: All applicable employees must successfully complete RAMP sever/seller training within the first 6 months of their hiring.
    • When current employees RAMP certification expires they must be retrained 
    • Availability: This training course is available online and in the classroom once the person has registered for PLCB+ or by scheduling with an approved instructor. 
    • Cost: The cost for the server training may vary depending on the provider

How to Receive RAMP Certification 

 

Simply completing the owner/manager training or the sever/seller training does not grant certification to the establishment of the person completing the training.In order for a licensed premise to receive their RAMP certification, the following steps must be completed.

 

Owner/Manager Training

  • Topics include creation of house policies and procedures for staff and the public along with aspects of the server/seller training
  • This must be completed by the current PLCB approved manager, contact the Bureau of Licensing, ra-lblicensing@pa.gov,  to be notified of who this is

Server/Seller Training
  • The training covers topics such as how to detect fake IDs, identify signs of intoxication, and responsible manage patrons. 
  • At least 50% of the alcohol service staff must be trained before certification can be granted. 
  • Upon completion of the course employees must successfully pass a course examination, with a score of 80% or better

New Employee Orientation
  • This orientation must be provided to each of the licensee's current staff and to each new employee within 30 days of hiring.
  • The New Employee Orientation Form must be completed and signed by each new employee, including owners/managers and security personnel. The owners must maintain a completed copy for the alcohol service staff's forms for the duration of their employment
  • The Orientation must be completed by the owner, manager, or a designated instructor

Signage 
  • The appropriate signage must be posted at the license establishment regarding responsible alcohol service. 
  • At least two signs must be posted addressing acceptable forms of ID and refusal to serve alcohol to minors and visibly intoxicated patrons
  • The correct signage can be ordered through, PLCB+, once an account is created. 
  • Signage must be appropriately displaced so that is is easily visible to patrons 

Affidavit Request for RAMP Certification
  1.  The final step requires the licensee to apply for the RAMP certification in PLCB+, by following these instructions
  2. A licensed establishment is not RAMP certified until all of these requirements are met and certified by the PLCB

Benefits of RAMP Certification

 

  • Knowledgeable, well-trained alcohol service staff and management
  • Recognition as a responsible licensee in your community
  • Less likelihood of dram shop liability
  • Possible liquor liability insurance discount
  • Possible reduction in fines and penalties issued by an Administrative Law Judge for serving a minor or visibly intoxicated patron (as long as the licensee was RAMP-certified at the time of the violation and had no citations for either of those two violations in the previous four years).

 

For assistance regarding your RAMP Certification you can contact your regional office.

 

Central Region, 717.558.2160
Eastern Region, 610.940.1217
Western Region, 412.723.0109

 

Annual Alcohol Education Conference

 

Every year the PLCB host a free conference where experts in alcohol education share their experiences and knowledge with members of the industry who are interested in reducing underage drinking and promoting responsible drinking among those of age. 

 

The theme of the conference changes each year, so the workshops and presentations are always based on the latest information, trends, and methods. More information for this year's Pennsylvania Annual Alcohol Education Conference

 

Legal

Legal

Pennsylvania laws regarding the purchasing, serving, and selling of alcoholic beverage can be complex. Here we have listed and explained some of the states laws. Please note this is not legal advice or inclusive of all Pennsylvania Liquor Laws.

 

Minors and Identification

 

  • Minor Age Definition: By Pennsylvania law a minor is defined as someone under the age 21

 

  • Server Age Requirements: To serve or dispense alcoholic beverages a person must be at least 18 years of age. 16 and 17 year old employees may be employed to serve food, bus tables, including clearing empty alcoholic containers.

 

  •  Minor's Presence in Licensed Establishment: The general rule of thumb is that no one under the age of 21 is permitted in an establishment permitted to sell alcoholic beverages. However there are a few exceptions to this law
    • Minors with Parents, the minor is allowed to sit in the bar area with their parents 
    • Minors with Legal Guardians the minor is allowed to sit in the bar area with their parents 
    • Minors under proper supervision, proper supervision is defined as accompanied by an individual that is at least 25 years of age that is directly responsible for their care.  
    • Minors attending a social gathering, an event marketed or catered towards minors. No alcohol can be served and the BLCE must be notified 48 hours in advance
    • Minors at food-oriented establishment ( does not apply to club licenses), if the establishment has gross sales of food and non alcoholic beverages of 50% or more then minors are permitted without supervision

  • Identification: There are no laws that requires a patron to possess valid ID while on a license premise. However establishments are liable for service to minors including those with a parent, guardian, or under proper supervision. Although carding is not required establishments are allowed to create house rules that do. 

  • Valid Forms of ID: a valid photo drivers license or ID card, a US armed forced ID card, a valid passport or travel visa

 

Free Alcoholic Beverages, Drink Specials, and Happy Hour

 

  •  Free Drinks to Patrons: Those with a retail license are permitted to give patrons one standard-size alcoholic beverage. The free drink can not be contingent upon the purchase of any other alcoholic beverage and it limited to one per patron. A standard size is defined as 12 fl. oz for malt of brewed beverages, 4 fl.oz for wine, and 1.5 fl oz for liquor. 

  • Happy Hour: Licensee's are permitted to have happy hour pricing up to 4 hours per day and up to 14 hours per week. Happy hour discounts are not permitted between midnight and closing. Notice of all happy hours must be posted on the licensed premise at least seven days in advance.

 

  • Daily Drink Specials: Retail licensees may offer one specific type, a specific brand of malt or brewed, a specific type of wine or distilled spirit or mix drink, of alcoholic beverage at a discounted price all day or for a portion of the day. Discounts are not permitted between midnight and closing.

 

License and Permits

 

  •  How to check status of application: To check the status of an application or to apply for a license you may contact the PLCB's Bureau of Licensing at (717) 783-8250

  • Wine Expanded Permits and How to Apply: These permits allow for those with an existing hotel and restaurant license to sell bottles of wine to patrons for off-premise consumption. To apply for the permit you must submit an application through PLCB+ along with an application fee of $2000. For more information regarding this permit, click here.

  • Converting E License to R License: Eatery Licensees are able to convert their license to a restaurant License for a one time fee of $30,000. To request a license conversion you must do so through PLCB+.  There are a few stipulations and important facts listed below:
    • Licenses in Philadelphia do not have the ability to convert from an E License to a R License
    • You must meet the license requirements of an R license ( this is listed above under Licensing)
    • Converted licenses can be renewed every 2 years and can be sold and transferred 
    • A neighbor within 500 feet of the pending licensed premise and another licensee within 200 ft may may protest the conversion request 

  • Selling Alcohol To-Go: In 2016 significant changes were made to Pennsylvania's Liquor Code that allowed for "to-go" sales at restaurant, eating place and hotel licensees. Restaurants can now sell alcohol to customers to consume off-premise. Licensees are permitted to sell up to 192 ounces (commonly two six packs) to go, per transaction. Restaurant and hotel licensees can obtain a wine expanded permit to be authorized to sell up to three liters of wine to go per transaction.

 

Liabilities 

 

  •  Enforcement of Liquor Laws: Liquor laws are enforced by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) not the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB)

  • Intoxicated Individuals It is illegal to sell, furnish, or give liquor or malt or brewed beverage to a person that is visibly intoxicated or to a minor. Licensees may be strictly liable for violations without regard to who provide the alcoholic beverages. 

Operations

 

  • Hours of OperationAll patrons must exit the licensed premise no later that half an hour after the legal alcoholic beverage time expires. Therefore the premise must be vacated no later than 2:30 AM. 

Mon-Fri: 7 AM til 2AM*

 

*Club Licenses are permitted to sale alcoholic beverages until 3AM and patrons must vacate by 3:30AM


  • Sunday Sales: If the licensee has a Sunday permit they are allowed to serve alcoholic beverages between the hours of 9AM till 2AM

  • BYOB: There is nothing in the state liquor control that prohibits consumers from being BYOB. For more information click here

  • Drinking on the Job: It is illegal for any licensee, server, agents, or employees to consumer liquor or malt or brewed beverage while tending to the bar or serving alcohol. 

 

 

Other Information

Other Information

Public Meetings 

 

Throughout the year the PLCB host several different public meetings. A list of future meetings and minutes from previous meetings can be found here. All meetings begin at 11 AM in Room 117 of the PLCB Headquarters.

 

406 Northwest Office Building 

Harrisburg, PA 17124-0001 

 

Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association 

 

The Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association goal is to promote, protect, and improve the hospitality and tourism industries within the state. They are  great resource for Restaurants and Hotels when handling staffing, training, discounts on the necessities. Their website can be accessed here

 

Pennsylvania Beer Alliance

 

The Alliance consist of license beer wholesalers that are licensed to purchase or sell malt or brewed beverages as importing distributors.  Their website can be accessed here

 

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