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Convenience Stores and Grocery Markets: Are You Ready to Sell Wine To Go?

July 28, 2016

As many Pennsylvania residents are now aware, on June 8, Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 1690 into law.  More commonly known as Act 39, it becomes effective just days away – on August 8.

Act 39 modernizes the Pennsylvania wine, liquor, and malt and brewed beverage industry in several significant ways.  One of the most popular changes allows convenience stores and grocery stores to sell wine for off-premises consumption.  This is a very exciting development for Pennsylvania residents, but retail establishments wishing to satisfy consumer demand for wine-to-go must be certain to comply with the Liquor Code’s provisions regarding such sales.

First, a retail establishment wishing to sell wine for off-premises consumption must first apply for and obtain a restaurant liquor license (an “R license”).  The holder of an R license must reserve a space within its establishment of not less than four hundred square feet, equipped with tables and chairs accommodating at least 30 persons at one time.  Please note that restaurant liquor licenses are quota-bound, meaning that, generally speaking, only one license is available for each 3,000 inhabitants in any county.  As such, depending on the county, R licenses may be difficult to find and expensive to obtain.  The McNees Food & Beverage Group has extensive experience and resources available to help you locate an R license.

An R license already permits the holder to sell up to 192 fluid ounces of malt and brewed beverages to go.  In order for your retail establishment to begin selling wine to go in addition to beer, it must apply for a “wine expanded permit” that authorizes the permittee to sell up to four, 750ml bottles of wine for off-premises consumption.  The new permit will cost a licensee an initial application fee of $2,000, plus an annual renewal fee that will vary depending on the amount of wine the licensee purchases from the State.

Once the wine expanded permit is obtained, your retail establishment must be sure to comply with the various parameters imposed by Act 39.  Specifically, sales of wine must occur at a specifically designated area of the licensed premises, but other (non-alcohol) items may be purchased at the same location.  Sales of wine must occur at a designated register which is staffed at all times by a cashier who is at least eighteen years old and is trained under the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s Responsible Alcohol Management Program (“RAMP”); sales of wine may not occur at other locations, including self-checkout lanes.  The RAMP-trained cashier must verify a purchaser’s age using a transaction scan device for anyone who appears to be under thirty-five years old.  Additionally, a permittee cannot discount the wine below the price at which it was purchased from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.  Finally, a permittee must comply with all components of RAMP, which involves various manager and server trainings, new employee orientations, and signage requirements.

The McNees Food & Beverage Group has vast experience in licensing applicants seeking restaurant liquor licenses, counseling licensees obtaining RAMP certification, and ensuring overall compliance with the provisions of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code. For more information and assistance with these processes, please contact any member of the Food & Beverage Group.

© 2016 McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC
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