New Pennsylvania Beer Laws

On 6/28/11, PA Governor Tom Corbett signed House Bill No. 148 (a.k.a. Act 11 of 2011) into law, with a few notable pieces:

  • Happy Hour Definition: The law now allows Happy Hour (or similar discount periods) for up to 4 hours at a time, up from 1-2 hours. The weekly limit of 14 remains, but this gives establishments more flexibility to focus on peak hours.
  • Take-out Beer Sales: To-go beer can now be sold in open containers, assuming the municipality does not restrict open containers in public places (which apparently includes Tredyffrin?!)
  • Beer Brand Registration: This one is a bit less consumer-facing, but it is now cheaper and easier to register beer brands in the state (remember those embarrassing raids of Philly bars in 2010?), opening the door for more small “nano” breweries to sprout up across the state. More beer for us!

Here is some of the language from the actual bil:

Happy Hour Discounts. A new definition has been added to the Liquor Code, and the period of time that a licensee may hold a happy hour has been expanded. “Happy Hour” is now defined as the period of time during which a licensee discounts alcoholic beverages. Currently, a retail licensee is limited to one (1) two (2)-hour consecutive period per business day when it can discount one, some, or all of its alcohol. Effective on July 28, 2011, a retail licensee can hold happy hours up to four (4) hours per day and up to fourteen (14) hours per week. Thus, while the maximum period remains fourteen (14) hours per week, licensees will be able to adjust the length of their daily happy hours to take advantage of slow/busy days, as long as the maximum limits are not exceeded. The hours need not be consecutive, but the prohibition against giving discounts between midnight and closing remains intact, as well as the other discounting provisions in section 13.102 of the Board¡¦s Regulations, including the daily drink special. A notice of all happy hours must now be posted on the licensed premises seven (7) days prior to each happy hour.

Beer Sales by Retail Licensees. Effective immediately, hotel, restaurant, or public service (railroad/pullman/steamship company) liquor licensees and malt beverage eating place licensees may now sell beer-to-go in either open or closed containers, as long as the municipality in which they are located does not have an ordinance restricting open containers in public places. The maximum limit of one hundred ninety-two (192) fluid ounces in a single sale to one person remains, as does the prohibition regarding clubs selling beer-to-go.

[Beer Brands] Effective immediately, if a beer manufacturer fails to register a brand in Pennsylvania before importing it into Pennsylvania, the beer will no longer be confiscated but will be left on the licensed premises until the manufacturer registers the brand or the licensee holding the illegal beer can return it to the manufacturer and be fully reimbursed. Effective on August 27, 2011, additional changes will occur to brand registration. It will be made clear that the annual filing fee for registration of a brand is seventy-five dollars ($75.00). However, up to twenty (20) different brands may be registered for a single annual fee of one hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) if the manufacturer produces one hundred (100) barrels or less of each brand per year. Beer that is not ready for sale will be registered at the time it is offered for sale. A new law effective on August 27, 2011 will require the Board to hire a malt beverage compliance officer whose duties include reviewing label registrations and investigating reports of unregistered brands. If the compliance officer determines that a licensee is selling unregistered beer, he/she is required to give the manufacturer notice that is has ten (10) days to register the beer with the Board. During that ten (10) day period, the unregistered beer will remain on the licensee’s premises, unsold. If the manufacturer fails to register the beer during the period, it will be required to remove the unregistered beer from the licensee¡¦s premises and reimburse the licensee for those unsalable products.

Another new law effective on August 27, 2011 will require the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, upon becoming aware of a potential violation of the beer registration laws, to give written notice to each licensee who might be in violation. If the beer is registered within ten (10) days of receipt of this notice, no further action will be taken against the licensee. If the beer is not registered within the ten (10) days, the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement will proceed with the citation process.

Hat Tip to The Beer Yard for most of this info.

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