Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board License Auction

September 13, 2018
Aaron K. Zeamer

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced its seventh auction of expired restaurant liquor licenses and will be accepting bids until October 30th.

While this may sound like good news if you are an aspiring restaurateur in the mid-state area, don’t get your hopes up just yet. As with its prior auctions, the PLCB is only auctioning licenses in the counties where there remains a quota of unexpired licenses, so there are no licenses available in York, Lancaster, Chester, or Cumberland counties. There is one license available in both Lebanon and Dauphin counties; however, even if you are interested in a license in one of those counties, be aware that the PLCB requires that the full purchase price for the license be placed in escrow with the PLCB within two weeks of being notified that they were the successful bidder in the auction. As a practical matter, and as has been the case throughout the license auction process, that eliminates nearly all new restaurateurs or small business owners who do not have the cash immediately available to deposit with the PLCB. It is for that reason that the overwhelming majority of auctioned licenses have been sold to large convenience and grocery store chains.

While the PLCB may have thought they were helping the marketplace and providing additional licenses for restaurateurs, the reality is that because of the way the purchase structure is set up, the only beneficiaries of this license auction have been large grocery and convenience store chains that can afford to put hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash toward the purchase of a license.  So if you’re in the market and don’t mind bidding against large central Pennsylvania retailers, good luck.  Otherwise, consider purchasing an existing business or finding another option to obtain a liquor license.

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.