The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board voted today to waive most liquor licensing fees for 2021, a move that the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association is calling it a step in the right direction.
To ease some of the financial burden on the bar and restaurant industry, which has been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the board voted 2-1 to forgive approximately $27.7 million in license fees next year.
Chuck Moran, executive director of the PLBTA said the waiver was something the association has been requesting as part of a larger industry survival and recovery package. However, he said, the impact of the fee waiver would not be significant.
“While waiving certain licensing fees won’t bring that much financial relief, it is a matter of principle to help those who are able to survive until then,” he said.
He called the fee waiver one piece of the puzzle for the industry’s recovery.
“Clearly, more needs to be done to help small business taverns and licensed restaurants that have sacrificed the most of any industry during this pandemic. They have been the tip of the spear in this battle since day one, and have played an important role to first flatten the curve and later getting school children back in class,” he said.
The board said license and permit fees for such things as renewal fees and amusement permits and Sunday sales permits, which range from $30 to $700 each, are among those waived.
So are safekeeping extension fees, which start at $5,000 or $10,000 per year depending on the county. Those allow a licensee to preserve an inactive license beyond two years.
The board noted that 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. The PLCB also said that it will require licensees to file all documents and pay all fees necessary to bring their license up to date for 2020 by Dec. 31.
License fees that will continue to be collected in 2021 include 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.
The board noted that certain businesses less impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, including manufacturers, beer distributors and transporters for hire will still be required to pay license fees in 2021.
Board member Mike Negra was the lone no vote for the waiver. He did not support the waiver because he felt the board did not have the authority to waive fees.
“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,” he said.