More about the Proposal for New Liquor Permits

September 6, 2019
Aaron K. Zeamer

Thank you to Chad Umble at LNP for another informative article regarding Pennsylvania liquor laws.  This one is concerning legislation pending in the PA House of Representatives that would impact the way that grocery stores and convenience stores could operate.

More specifically, the article highlights a bill currently being considered in the House’s Liquor Control Committee that would create a “customer convenience permit” which would enable those holding the permit to deny patrons the ability to consume alcohol on their premises, and also allow them more flexibility in terms of where they have to physically locate the beer and wine within their store.  It also proposes to remove some of the restrictions on how many ounces of alcohol can be purchased in any given transaction. As you might imagine, despite this being called a “customer convenience permit”, it is really a permit that was crafted solely by and for the grocery stores and convenience stores. As correctly pointed out in the article, Walmart is a major proponent of this bill and likely provided much, if not all, of the input on the bill as it was drafted.

There is no doubt that this bill would make it substantially more convenient for grocery stores and convenience stores to operate in terms of the way they sell alcohol.   It would eliminate the need to have a separate register or checkout area for alcohol sales and would allow them to place beer in any part of their store.  It would also eliminate the need to ring up a case of beer or a larger quantity of alcohol in multiple transactions.   Despite those “conveniences, ” it does nothing to address the issues raised in the previous LNP article (and my prior comments on that article) that place a substantial burden on independent restaurateurs to find and acquire a restaurant liquor license. This new permit in this House bill really will have no impact at all on the value of licenses or the current state of the market as it relates to restaurant liquor licenses. What it will accomplish is to allow grocery stores to operate more seamlessly in their alcohol sales and continue to capitalize on the use of a restaurant liquor license, even if these rules make them look even less like a restaurant.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He practices in a variety of areas including Business Law and Liquor License matters. Aaron works frequently with commercial real estate agents, brokers, restaurant and bar owners, breweries, distilleries, and wineries to facilitate the sale and transfer of PA liquor licenses.