The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) today approved, by a vote of 2-1, the forgiveness of an estimated $27.7 million in license fees in 2021 for retail licensees most impacted by the pandemic, including holders of restaurant, retail dispenser, club, catering club, and hotel licenses.
“Following the Governor’s request last week to waive license fees and provide some relief to struggling businesses, the PLCB did its due diligence in evaluating our authority to waive fees authorized by various state laws, as well as the fiscal impact of doing so,” said Board Chairman Tim Holden. “We believe it’s the right thing to do in support of our restaurants, bars, and gathering places, so we’re glad next year to ease the financial burden to some extent for these local businesses.”
License and permit fees being waived for these retail licensees next year include the following, which vary from $30 to $700 per fee: filing fee, license fee, renewal fee, validation fee, renewal/validation surcharge, amusement permit fee, Sunday sales permit fee, and extended hours food license fee. Safekeeping extension fees, which start at $5,000 or $10,000 per year depending on the county where a license is located and allow a license to preserve an inactive license beyond two years, will also be waived in 2021. While these license fees will be waived through 2021, licensees will still be required to timely file validation and renewal applications to keep licensees current and to avoid late-filing fees.
“I absolutely support efforts to provide relief to our bars and restaurants, but I don’t believe the PLCB has the authority to waive statutorily established fees,” said Board Member Mike Negra, explaining his dissenting vote. “This fee waiver is the equivalent of the PLCB legislating, rather than administering current law, and legislating is the role of the Pennsylvania Senate, House and Governor.”
Based on permit and fee collections in FY 2019-20, licensees may save an estimated $27.7 million in license and permit fees associated with renewals and validations, while the PLCB’s operating income will decrease about $23.8 million, split over two fiscal years. The difference between the licensee savings and the operating income decrease for the PLCB is about $4 million in fees paid by licensees but returned by the PLCB to local municipalities hosting those licensees.
In the interest of fairness and in light of the fact that less than 1,000 licensees have not renewed/validated their licenses in 2020 as compared to about 16,000 that have done so and paid the associated fees, the PLCB will require all licensees to file all documents and pay all fees necessary to bring their license up to date for 2020 by Dec. 31, 2020. Additionally, licensees not actively using their licenses must put their licenses in safekeeping by Dec. 1, 2020 (there are no fees associated with putting a license in safekeeping), but licenses already in safekeeping don’t need to extend their safekeeping periods.
License fees that will continue to be collected in 2021 include, for example, those associated with wine expanded permit applications and renewals, direct wine shipper licenses, change of ownership and/or location of a license, application fees for new licenses, fees associated with a licensee’s change of officers/managers and extension of licensed premises. Manufacturers, beer distributors and transporters for hire – businesses less impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, will be required to pay license fees in 2021.
Licensees are encouraged to review the PLCB’s revised Advisory Notice 27 for details on the fee waivers.
As a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis and its impact on licensees, the PLCB, beginning last March, established certain waivers and fee deferrals that continue today. Not only are safekeeping requirements waived for licensees no longer able to use their liquor license, but late-filing fees were waived and licensing fees continue to be deferred. Further, the PLCB continues to expedite applications for temporary extensions of license premises to include outside service areas.
The PLCB regulates the distribution of beverage alcohol in Pennsylvania, operates 600 wine and spirits stores statewide, and licenses 20,000 alcohol producers, retailers, and handlers. The PLCB also works to reduce and prevent dangerous and underage drinking through partnerships with schools, community groups, and licensees. Taxes and store profits – totaling nearly $17.9 billion since the agency’s inception – are returned to Pennsylvania’s General Fund, which finances Pennsylvania’s schools, health and human services programs, law enforcement, and public safety initiatives, among other important public services. The PLCB also provides financial support for the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, other state agencies, and local municipalities across the state. For more information about the PLCB, visit lcb.pa.gov.