Cocktails-to-go and outdoor dining allowed during pandemic in Pa. must cease, PLCB says

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Effective immediately, Pennsylvania restaurants and bars are no longer allowed to sell "cocktails-to-go" or offer outdoor seating that was greenlit during the pandemic.

But, at this point, enforcement remains a question mark.

That update came Tuesday afternoon from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board after a bill that would have extended both options for businesses was derailed in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

An amendment added in committee to the bill - that would have allowed grocery stores, beer distributors, convenience stores, and bars to sell pre-canned cocktails - is blamed for derailing it.

The Department of State certified the Pennsylvania primary results which means Gov. Tom Wolf's emergency declaration is expired.

"We just found out that the emergency declaration is over, and that the PLCB will be sending out communication to licensees," said Melissa Bova of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. "As of today, licensees will lose cocktails-to-go and outdoor seating."

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It's the first weekend where the city's final two COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted as of Friday at midnight.

Governor Tom Wolf said that with the addition of the amendment, he would veto the bill.

"Cocktails-to-go were a lifeline to bars and restaurants during the pandemic," he said in a statement before that amendment was added. "Pennsylvanians have embraced this service as an amenity in our commonwealth, and I support making it permanent."

Restaurants spent anywhere from $1,500 to $75,000 to create the outdoor seating set-ups and had hoped they would remain even as restrictions are lifted.

Alex Morris of Pinocchios in Media said the set-up was painstaking, and now they still have customers who don't feel comfortable eating indoors yet.

"Just getting the tent alone was a huge nightmare because obviously there was a huge spike in demand for tents," he said.

At Stephen's on State in Media, they are phasing out to-go drinks, but manager Tom Dubois said they could not have survived without them.

"The to-go drinks were just as important as the food. I would say about 20-30 percent I sold during the pandemic were related," he said.

The PLCB is not an enforcement arm of the state. Pennsylvania State Police have not addressed yet if they will be enforcing the new action.

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