Pa. LCB waives $27.7 million in 2021 licensing fees for businesses impacted by COVID

HARRISBURG—The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has 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.

License and permit fees being waived for retail licensees, ranging from $30 to $700 per fee, include the 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, will also be waived in 2021.

“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.”

Based on permit and fee collections in 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.