ARTICLES AND Q&A's

 

We make every effort to post articles and Q&A's

related to current issues in the liquor law and

hospitality industry and other legal matters of interest

to our clients. 

 

We encourage you to email us any questions you

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WARNING TO ALL PHILLY BARS AND RESTAURANTS!!  

               SERVSAFE IS MANDATORY

 

     Many of you know that all Philadelphia bars and restaurants must have a Food Safety Certificate (also known as “ServSafe”) on the premises at all times.  However, some of you may not know that a Certified Food Protection Manager must be on the premises AT ALL TIMES that you are open for business.  Recently, many bars and restaurant throughout the Philadelphia area have been CLOSED by the Department of Health because the certified person was not on the premises during their inspection.  That’s right… Not cited or warned...CLOSED!

 

     To be safe, you should have as many employees as you can certified so that at least one certified employee will be on the premises if a Health Inspector makes a surprise visit to your establishment.

 

     Also, make sure your Health License (Preparing and Serving Food License) is renewed and up to date and hanging on the wall.

 

     The ServSafe course is a 16 hour course given by the City of Philadelphia.  You must be re-certified every five (5) years.  Details can be found at www.phila.gov/health/units/ehs/Food Protection_Offi.html.  Or you can call the City Health Department (Office of Food Protection) at #(215)685-7495.  After you complete the course, you have to then apply for a Food Safety Certificate from the City.  The cost is $30.00.  Please note that it may take 30 days to process the application.  You must pick up the certificate in person and show photo I.D.

      

     Another word of warning:  Just because you think you are a “bar” and not a “restaurant” does not mean you are safe.  According to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, if you have a “Restaurant Liquor License” then you are a restaurant.  You are required to meet all of the requirements of being a restaurant, which means that you must be able to serve food to at least thirty (30) patrons at all times that you are open for business.  You must also have seating for 30 patrons.  So, even if you are a “shot and beer” joint, you are a restaurant according to the PLCB.  That means, according to the City of Philadelphia, you must have a Health License and a Certified Food Protection Manager on the premises at all times that you are open for business. 

 

     Contact us if you have any questions.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA “BOUNCER BILL” NOW BEING ENFORCED

 

 

     The so-called “Bouncer Bill” was passed unanimously by Philadelphia City Council on December 8, 2011.  The bill was sponsored by Councilman William Greenlee.  The bill was signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter on December 21, 2011.  The law went into effect on April 19, 2012.

 

     Although the law has been on the books since last April, very few licenses are aware that it exists.  Well, they are about to get a schooling, and a harsh dose of realty!  The City’s Department of Licenses and Inspection is about to begin strict enforcement of the new law in the coming weeks.  Fines for a single violation start at $2,000.00.

    

     The law was enacted in response to what some considered a problem with bouncers beating up or mishandling customers.  Some described a “Roadhouse” mentality in some establishments, by permitting untrained and over-zealous bouncers free reign in evicting problem customers.  The new law requires bouncers and security personnel employed by “Covered Establishments” to undergo formal training and to register with the City.  The training must be obtained from an accredited and approved third-party company within 45 days from the date of hire. Registration requires submitting a certificate to the City that the applicant has completed the training. The City can revoke the registration if the bouncer is convicted of a crime or fails to complete additional required training. The law prohibits anyone from being a bouncer if he or she has a criminal conviction involving danger to another person.

     The City’s Department of L&I has announced plans to commence strict enforcement of the new law.       

 

     You can download a full copy of the Ordinance was going to:

           http://legislation.phila.gov/attachments/12353.pdf

 

 

NEW HAPPY HOUR LAWS

 

     The law has been changed to allow you to have up to four (4) hours of “Happy Hour” per day.  The prior law allowed a total of only 2 hours per day.  This will allow you to adjust your Happy Hours for slower or busier days.  However, you must now post a notice of all Happy Hours at least seven (7) days in advance.  The following restrictions still apply: 

 

          (a)  You can still only have up to a total of fourteen (14) hours of Happy Hour per week.  That is, you might want to have a 4-hour Happy Hour on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but that would leave you only 2 remaining hours for the rest of the week.

 

          (b)  A “Happy Hour” is still defined as a period of time during which you may reduce the price of some or all of your drinks. You still cannot have “all you can drink” or “two for one” or any of the other prohibited promotions. 

 

          (c)  You still must stop the Happy Hour at 12:00 Midnight.  There still can be no promotions after Midnight.   

 

          (d)  The new law does not make it clear if the hours still have to be consecutive, but it is clear that the prices cannot change during those hours.

 

 

A REMINDER ABOUT DAILY DRINK SPECIALS

 

     The regulations of the Board dealing with Discount Pricing Practices say that you can have a "daily drink special" where you discount the price of one (1) specific type of alcoholic beverage all day, up until 12:00 Midnight.  What constitutes a "typer" of drink has been the subject of debate for several years.  When it comes to beer, the PLCB has stated that you must offer a specific brand of draft beer, such as "Bud on draft" or "Coors Light bottles."

 

      Here are some examples of what is and what is not permitted and when it comes to the daily drink special:

 

                                               Allowed :                               Not Allowed:

 

                                               Bud draft                               All draft beer

                                               Heinekin bottles                      All imported beer

                                               Rum and Coke                        All mixed drinks

                                               Margarita                               All tequila

 

     If you are planning to run a drink special, and you are not sure if it is legal, please feel free to contact us for clarification.

 

 

 

NO MORE PHILADELPHIA TAKE-OUT BEER PERMIT. 

 

     The much maligned City of Philadelphia Take-Out Beer Permit has been struck down.  On July 11, 2011, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania rendered a decision stating that the requirement of Philadelphia licensees to apply for an Off-Premises Sales Permit (“OPS”) from the City of Philadelphia’s Malt and Brewed Beverage Hearing Board and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is unenforceable.  Licensees located in Philadelphia County may now sell malt or brewed beverages for off-premise consumption (up to 192 fl. ounces) without the requirement of obtaining an OPS.  That means no more $300.00 to the City and $300.00 to the state.  That means no more ugly green posters.  In fact, the Off Premises Sales application has been removed from the PLCB website.  Great news for all Philly retail licensees!!!

 

 

NEW OFF-PREMISES CATERING PERMIT. 

 

 

Here’s one that came out of nowhere.  Did you ever wish that you could serve liquor at a catered event off your licensed premises.  Now you can!  All hotel, restaurant and eating place licensees can now apply for a special permit which allows them to cater functions off the licensed premises, where they can serve food and liquor.  A “catered function” is defined as the furnishing of food prepared on the premises or brought onto the premises already prepared in conjunction with alcoholic beverages for the accommodation of a person or an identifiable group of people who made arrangements for the function at least 48 hours in advance.  The fee is $500.00 per year for the initial permit.  No further fee will be charged for any subsequent permitted events issued to the applicant.  Alcoholic beverages may only be provided during the hours the licensee can normally sell such beverages (until 2:30 A.M. for most licensees).   All servers at the catered site must be certified in compliance with the Responsible Alcohol Management provisions (“RAMP”).  Any catered function cannot last longer than one (1) day, and no more than fifty (50) such events may be held by the particular licensee in any given year.  A catered function cannot be held on a premises already licensed.  Only licensees holding an active license can apply for the permit.  No permits can be issued to a location that is subject to a pending license renewal objection by the Board, or a pending license suspension or the one (1) year prohibition on the issuance or transfer of a license due to a citation action.  Written notice of the catered function must be provided to the local police or, if none, to the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, at least forty-eight (48) hours in advance of the function.  No alcohol may be taken from the permitted location, but the applicant may transport alcohol to and from its licensed premises.  Retail licensees may sell wine, liquor and malt or brewed beverages by the glass, open bottle or other container, and in any mixture for consumption on the permitted premises.  Eating Place licensees may only sell malt and brewed beverages on the permitted premises.

  

 

 

A REMINDER ABOUT NOISE

 

     The regulations of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board state that the sound of music or other entertainment cannot be heard outside of the license premises.  This means that if an agent of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement stands outside of your bar, at your property line, and he can hear your jukebox, that is a violation and you will likely receive a citation.  Such citations carry penalties ranging from $50.00 to $1,000.00 for the first offence.  What is more troubling is the possible cumulative effect of such citations.  If you get too many violations against your license the Board can decide not to renew your license—which means you are out of business.

 

     Many people have complained that this law is unfair since it does not carry any requirement that the noise actually bother someone, or that the music be of a certain decibel level.  Efforts have been made to change the law, to no avail.  The law is what it is.  Licensees should be cautious and make sure that their music or other entertainment cannot be heard from the outside.

 

 

ATTENTION ALL BAR MANAGERS!  RAMP IS NOW MANDATORY

 

     It is now MANDATORY for all bar managers to have RAMP training and certification.  Effective as of February 20, 2012, Act 113 of 2011 has made it mandatory for all Board-approved managers to take the Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP) for Owners/Managers within 180 days of the date they are appointed as manager.  If you fail to comply, you can receive a citation from the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. 

 

     Despite this requirement for Managers, we recommend that all employees take the RAMP program.  It is simply good for business.  RAMP was created by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to help licensees and their employees to serve alcohol responsibly. RAMP offers practical advice on such subjects as:

 

  • How to detect signs of impairment and intoxication.

  • How to effectively cut off service to a customer who has had too much to drink.

  • How to identify underage individuals, and deter minors from coming into the bar in the first place.

  • How to detect altered, counterfeit, and borrowed identification.

  • How to avoid unnecessary liability.

  • How to help reduce alcohol-related problems (underage drinking, vehicle crashes, fights, etc) in your community.

 

 

SUNDAY BRUNCH

 

               Q.  I hold a restaurant liquor license. I have a Sunday Sales Permit.  On Sundays we have an early brunch which starts at 8:00 A.M.  We serve such items as scrambled eggs, sausage, bagels and breads, cereal, etc.  A friend told me there has been a change in the law which allows you to serve liquor earlier than 11:00 A.M. on Sundays.  Is this true?  Can I serve Mimosa (orange juice and champagne) at my Sunday brunch?

 

               A.  Your friend is correct that there has been a recent change in the law dealing with serving alcohol on Sunday.  The old law was that you can serve alcohol on Sunday, if you have a Sunday Sales Permit, starting at 11:00 A.M.  The new law says that you can serve alcohol even earlier, starting at 9:00 A.M., if you serve the alcohol with a meal.  So, if you start your Sunday brunch at 9:00 A.M. instead of 8:00 A.M., you can serve Mimosa, or any other kind of alcoholic beverage for that matter.

 

       It is important to note that the earlier serving hour only applies if you are serving alcohol with a meal.  A meal is defined as “food prepared on the premises sufficient to constitute breakfast, lunch or dinner.”  This does not include snacks, such as pretzels and potato chips.  Your Sunday brunch described above clearly meets the definition of a meal.

 

   Remember:

 

     *If you do not hold a Sunday Sales Permit, you may not serve alcohol on Sunday at all. 

 

     *If you hold a Sunday Sales Permit and do not offer a meal, you may serve alcohol after 11:00 A.M.

 

*If you hold a Sunday Sales Permit and offer a meal, you    may serve alcohol starting at 9:00 A.M.


 

NEW NOISE LAW

 

          Q.  I have heard that there has been a change in the law concerning noise violations.  Is this true?

 

          A.  Yes.  As a result of changes to the Liquor Code enacted in December of 2011, the noise law has been changed.  Previously, the regulations of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (Section 5.32) stated that it is illegal for the sound of your music or other entertainment to be heard outside of your licensed establishment.  This meant that if a BLCE Enforcement Officer stood directly outside the door of your bar, and he or she could hear your music, you could receive a citation.  This has been a constant worry for bars that have music because it is often impossible to keep the sound of your music from escaping from your building, particularly as patrons enter or exit.  These “noise citations” have been known to accumulate to the point where the Board could object to the renewal of the license because of the number of citations.  Bar have been closed because of these noise violations.  

 

For years lawyers and industry advocates have been fighting for a change in the law in this area.  We finally made some progress.  The new law adds a section to the Pennsylvania Liquor Code entitled “Noise” and provides that:  “A licensee may not use, or permit to be used, inside or outside of the licensed premises, a loudspeaker or similar device whereby the sound of music or other entertainment, or the advertisement thereof, can be heard beyond the licensee's property line.” (Emphasis added).  We are not sure exactly what this means, or how it will be interpreted in the future.  However, it does appear that the BLCE Enforcement Officer must stand outside the property line, not just outside of the building, in order to hear the offensive noise.  Of greater importance is the fact that the law now says that the Board may not use such noise violations as the sole basis for objecting to the renewal of a license unless there have been six (6) noise citations adjudicated against the licensee within a twenty-four (24) month period.

 

This is welcome news for bars with entertainment.

 

 

 

AGE COMPLIANCE PROGRAM – A "TRAP" FOR LICENSEES?

 

     Age Compliance Checks have been around for quite some time. 

 

     The purpose of the Age Compliance Program, at least initially, was to educate licensees that it is illegal to serve underage persons, no matter how old they look.  However, recently some licensees have complained that these checks are being used as sting operations, where police use older-looking teenagers and other young adults to act as decoys in an attempt to catch and cite unsuspecting licensees.

 

     The law authorizing and creating the “Age Compliance Program” was signed by Governor Schweiker on December 3, 2002.  The law authorized the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (“BLCE”) to hire and train minors, aged 18 to 20, to conduct “compliance checks” at liquor licensed establishments.  The program was supposed to be educational in nature.  It was modeled after the compliance checks already being conducted for tobacco sales, where underage persons would try to buy cigarettes.  If the proprietor agreed to sell the cigarettes to the minor, the proprietor would be issued a warning.  We have all seen the commercials.  The purpose was to educate proprietors that is it illegal to sell tobacco to minors and that there are dire consequences for violating the law.

 

     Similarly, the idea of the Age Compliance Program was to check liquor-licensed establishments to see if they were complying with the law, and to see if they were using a proper age verification system.  Often, older-looking minors would be used to impress upon the licensee that it is illegal to serve a minor no matter how old he or she looks.  If the licensee was found not to be in compliance with the law, that is if the minor was served alcohol or was not properly carded, the licensee would be issued a verbal and written notice of non-compliance.    

   

     The bill, House Bill 850, which was sponsored by Rep. Paul Clymer (R-Bucks), was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate.  “This is another tool in our arsenal to try and save lives,” said Clymer.  The measure had strong support from both MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and PAUD (Pennsylvanians Against Underage Drinking).  Alcohol compliance checks had already been used in most states of the U.S. for many years.  According to many observers, the program was expected to be educational in nature, and that through education, voluntary compliance with the law would be increased, less minors would be served, and less injuries and deaths to minors would be experienced throughout Pennsylvania.

 

     The law officially went into effect in February of 2003.  However, regulations detailing how the program would work were not implemented until November of 2004.  The program did not really start in earnest until about January of 2005.  During that extended period of time, nearly two years, the program has turned from an educational program into an enforcement program.

 

     Under the program, which is run by the BLCE, minors aged 18 to 20 are trained as “Underage Buyer Volunteers.”  They are recruited mainly from college campuses.  These “volunteers” enter licensed establishments, under the direct supervision of an adult BLCE officer, and attempt to purchase alcohol.  Many licensees have reported that the volunteers look like they are 25 or 30 years old. 

 

     Under the program as initially conceived, if the licensee served the minor or failed to properly I.D. the minor, the licensee would be given a verbal and then a written notification as to whether or not the licensee passed the compliance check.  For most observers, it was not expected that citations would be issued or that arrests would be made.  However, in practice, many licensees are complaining that these compliance checks are being used as nothing more than sting operations, resulting in citations and arrests.

 

     According to the official records of the Pennsylvania State Police, 284 compliance checks had been conducted as of February, 2006.  Of these, 183 licensees have been found in compliance and 101 licensees have been found not in compliance.  What the statistics do not show, however, is how many of these 101 licensees have been issued citations or have been arrested.  It is believed that most if not all received citations.

     

     Furthermore, some licensees have complained that the Age Compliance Program is entrapment, since the BLCE appears to use older-looking minors to enter the establishment and ask to be served.

 

     I have written many articles on the consequences of serving alcohol to a minor.  It is the most serious violation a licensee can have on its record.  This Age Compliance Program is just one more reason to immediately re-examine your age verification system to make sure minors are not served in your establishment.

 

 

 

 

 

COMING SOON....

 

 

TAVERN GAMBLING:  BEYOND THE HYPE

 

LIQUOR LICENSE RENEWAL:  DELAY MAY COST YOU MORE THAN A LATE FEE

 

NEW HAPPY HOUR LAWS--QUESTIONS COMMONLY ASKED

 

MORE ON THE NEW OFF-PREMISES CATERING PERMIT

 

DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH, OR THE RIGHT KIND, OF INSURANCE

 

IS PHILADELPHIA ANTI-BUSINESS??

 

 

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