On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board released new guidelines for bars and restaurants. The PLCB is now trying to define what is and isn’t considered a bar meal.
Remember, last week, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered that all bars – unless they served a meal with drinks, like a “hamburg” – had to close.
To stay open, some bars came up with crafty ways to get around that ridiculous mandate.
Locally, in Cressona, the Hot Rod Bar and Grill came up with its own response to Wolf’s latest orders. They started a “I Just Want to Drink” menu and it features 50-cent slices of buttered bread and servings of popcorn.
But apparently, that’s not good enough.
So now, law enforcement officials get tasked with going into bars to determine if what a person is eating is considered a meal or just a snack.
The guidelines clarified Gov. Tom Wolf’s order last week as to what exactly constitutes a “meal”. The new guidelines are as follows:
- Sales of alcohol for on-premises consumption are only permissible as part of a larger transaction that includes a meal purchase. The term “meal” is defined in section 406 of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code as “food prepared on the premises, sufficient to constitute breakfast, lunch or dinner.” The definition expressly states that a snack, such as pretzels, popcorn, chips, or similar food, does not meet the definition of a meal.
- A customer who wishes to consume alcohol on-premises must also purchase a meal; a group of customers who wish to consume alcohol on premises may do so as long as a meal is part of the purchase made by the group.
- Additional drinks may be purchased while the customer is consuming the meal, but no further drinks may be purchased after the meal is finished.
- Bar service of food and/or alcohol is prohibited.
- For Pennsylvania manufacturers (breweries, distilleries, and wineries), meals may be provided by the licensee or by a third party, such as a food truck.
- Casinos may no longer provide drink service on the casino floor.
- If a club does not sell food, either directly or through a concessionaire, it cannot use its liquor license.
- The governor’s additional order directing targeted mitigation measures specifically prohibits businesses that meet the definition of a “nightclub” under the Clear Indoor Air Act from operating.
- Indoor seating in yellow counties is NOT allowed.
Staff is included in the 25% occupancy limit.
The guidelines will be enforced by the Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement, as well as the Liquor Control Board.
Another Blow to the Bar Industry in Pennsylvania
These new guidelines are once again a blow to the chest for bars and restaurants across the state of Pennsylvania who were already affected by the shutdown orders when they were limited to carry-out and delivery options.
Once again many owners are facing difficult challenges and ongoing questions as they try to keep their businesses afloat during uncertain times.
As if the hospitality business wasn’t going through enough of a hard time after businesses in Pennsylvania were told to close for months unless they were deemed as “essential”. Last Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced new measures in place for bars and restaurants in Pennsylvania.
Gov. Wolf’s announcement stated that bars and restaurants were now required to adhere to the following guidelines:
- Prohibition from conducting operations unless the facility offers sit-down, dine-in meals or is serving take-out sales of alcoholic beverages. All service must be at a table or booth; bar service is prohibited.
- Alcohol only can be served for on-premises consumption when in the same transaction as a meal.
- Take-out sales of alcohol for the purposes of off-site consumption are permitted subject to any limitations or restrictions imposed by Pennsylvania law.
- Non-bar seating in outdoor areas (i.e. tables or counter seats that do not line up to a bar or food service area) may be used for customer seating.
- Social distancing, masking, and other mitigation measures must be employed to protect workers and patrons.
- Occupancy is limited to 25 percent of stated fire-code maximum occupancy for indoor dining, or 25 persons for a discrete indoor event or gathering in a restaurant. The maximum occupancy limit includes staff.
This left many bars and restaurants in a difficult position. Many owners were left with questions, and answers they needed to their questions. Many restaurant and bar owners were once again hit hard.
They were left with questions such as:
- “What does 25% occupancy look like in our restaurant?”
- “How will this hurt our business?”
- “Why are Walmart and Lowe’s are once again left untouched?”
- “Does the occupancy limit include front-of-the-house staff or the back-of-the-house staff?”
- “What exactly constitutes a “meal”?
The owner of Fenicci’s of Hershey took to Facebook to share his thoughts and frustrations about the whole situation from the perspective of a business owner.
- Governor’s Actions Wednesday “Could Be the Final Stake in the Heart” for Some Small Businesses in Schuylkill County
- Wolf Closed Schuylkill County Bars Over 36 “New” Coronavirus Cases in July
- Wolf Says Food with Booze is Safer than Booze and No Food