Earlier this year, Pennsylvania passed Act 39, the state’s new wine sale law, which allows alcohol to be sold in more places than in the past.
Governor Tom Wolf called it the largest reform in liquor laws “since Prohibition ended 80 years ago.”
The law was signed June 8 and went into effect 60 days later. But what does it mean for consumers and liquor license holders? The LNP out of Lancaster put together a helpful Q&A:
Will I be able to purchase beer in places I couldn’t before?
The new law allows gas stations to sell alcohol as long as they set up a point of sale separate from where they sell fuel. The types of alcohol they sell will depend on the type of liquor license they get.
How does the law affect wine?
Under Act 39, restaurants and hotels that have liquor licenses can get permits that allow them to sell wine for take-out, up to four bottles at a time. This measure also applies to grocery stores and gas stations that have restaurant licenses.
Does this mean we’re about to see a boom in new beer and wine sellers?
Not really. Selling alcohol still requires a liquor license, which are very difficult to obtain. They can be quite expensive—tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars – there’s a finite number available, and the state limits the number of licenses for each county.
Will we ever see an increase in the number of liquor licenses?
We could. There’s a provision that will allow the state Liquor Control Board to auction off expired/revoked licenses. There are approximately 1,000 so-called “dead licensees” in Pennsylvania. Whoever buys one will need to keep it within the county where it originated.
Is this the end of state-run liquor stores?
No. At least not yet. Act 39 did establish a commission to explore liquor store privatization. The commission has six months to study the issue and report its findings.
For now, the law changes how “state stores” operate, but does not do away with them. The LCB gets more flexibility on pricing and operations. Stores will have expanded hours on Sundays and holidays, and can now sell lottery tickets.
How does the law affect alcoholic beverages beyond beer and wine?
In general, you’ll still need to buy things like vodka at state-run stories. But the law has loosened its restrictions on craft distillers, allowing them to sell their wares at food expos and farmers’ markets, and to operate at up to five off-site locations. (That’s up from two under the old law.)
In addition, small distilleries can now sell craft beer and wine, and small winemakers can sell craft beer and liquors. Brewers can also apply for permits that lets them sell their products at farmers’ markets.
What else has changed?
Among the other changes:
- Casinos can apply for permits that would let them sell alcohol around the clock, and serve free drinks at invitation-only events. It will cost the casinos $1 million for the first four years. After that, the annual cost of these permits drops to $250,000.
- If you’ve ever wanted to have wine sent to your home, you’re in luck. The law lets licensed wine producers ship up to 36 cases a year to individual customers.
- Non-profits can sell alcohol up to six times a year during fundraising events. This also broadens the types of non-profits that can get these permits.
- Bed and breakfasts are now allowed to offer complimentary bottles of wine to guests.
If you’re a business owner interested in taking advantage of the new freedoms provided by Act 39, Penglase and Benson can help.
Our attorneys are experts at navigating through the complicated process of obtaining a liquor license in Pennsylvania. We can identify available licenses, negotiate a transfer, and take all the steps necessary to getting the LCB to sign off on the transfer.
Contact us today and let us help your business make this important step.