Virus Outbreak Pennsylvania

A man walks past a restaurant in Mount Lebanon, Pa., with a sign in the window that reminds people to wear a mask, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously approved two bills Monday that eased some of the state’s liquor rules in effort to aid current and former establishments impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Bill 425 allows former owners to sell their remaining wine and liquor stock to another license holder. House Bill 427 increases the 10% discount bars and restaurants receive when buying from the state-run liquor stores to 15% for three years.

Rep. Matt Dowling, R-Uniontown, said his HB 425 provides some relief after last year’s “heavy toll” on bars and restaurants. Three in 10 Pennsylvania businesses shut down, at least temporarily, in 2020 as a result of Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions. Federal labor statistics show the hospitality sector likewise shed up to 30% of its workforce nationwide.

“While this bill can’t bring their businesses back, it would help the owners recover at least some of their losses,” Dowling said.

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association described the bills – in combination with increased vaccinations and easing restrictions on dining out and serving alcohol – as “a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“But, it’s a long tunnel and we’re not at the end of it yet,” said Chuck Moran, the association’s executive director. “However, we have started to move into the recovery phase, which is why HB 427 is an important piece of legislative puzzle for those that have survived and are looking to rebuild their businesses.

The bills now move to the Senate for consideration.

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.