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Liquor license renewal process potentially long

The interior of the Butler Brew Works on Main Street in Butler. Butler Eagle file photo

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board gets thousands of retail liquor license renewal applications at once each year, and each review process is different and can take different lengths of time.

Shawn Kelly, spokesman for the liquor control board, said the renewal process involves review of financial and operating reports and even talks with local law enforcement by the board. Because of the process, a restaurant may not get its license renewed by the time the old one expires.

“We have hundreds of wineries, breweries, distilleries — that is a process and every one of them is carefully reviewed,” Kelly said. “It is actually an issue with timing. We try to balance out the number of licenses that come through at any given time.”

Here in Butler County, Butler Brew Works was temporarily operating without a brewery liquor license, but the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board renewed the license on Feb. 23.

The brewery license and the business’ brewery storage licenses expired Dec. 31, according to the LCB, but a bartender said Thursday, Feb. 22, that the matter could be cleared up as early as that evening. In a Feb. 15 Facebook post, Butler Brew Works said it was experiencing a delay in its license renewal process, but people could still bring their own beverages to its two locations.

The license for the brewery contains an amusement permit, a farmers market permit and a Sunday sales permit. The brewery license covered the Butler location of Butler Brew Works, as well as its location in Middlesex Township, according to the bartender.

According to Kelly, businesses getting their liquor licenses renewed still have operating authority while the liquor control board is going through its review process. Because while the liquor control board can’t revoke a liquor license, it can rule against renewing a business’ license.

“They can dispense products they are allowed to dispense,” Kelly said. “There is a procedure where licensees who do not renew in time can ask after the fact. Most licensees are on top of it because they understand the importance of doing it.”

Larry Goettler, owner of the Brick House in Butler, said liquor license renewal process is just another part of the restaurant business, and is similar to other state codes a bar has to comply with to operate legally. Despite listing off many requirements a restaurant provides to the liquor control board for license renewal, from financial statements to bartender certifications, Goettler said the process isn’t one he has problems with.

“The LCB checks off those things, mainly the sales tax, and then they review you your citations and then you're off with it for another year,” Goettler said. “It's really not that bad as long as you have your ducks in a row.”

Goettler also called the cost of a license renewal, which he said may be up to $2,000, reasonable.

Liquor licenses are supposed to be limited by a municipality’s population — one liquor license per every 3,000 residents. Kelly said many counties and municipalities in Pennsylvania are well above their liquor license quota — by population, only 65 businesses in Butler County should posses retail liquor licenses.

Liquor license transfers

Pennsylvania Rep. Marci Mustello, R-11th, sponsored legislation last year that aimed to make the liquor license transfer process more efficient. The bill eliminates the need for the liquor control board to meet to approve a transfer when a business pays the fee on time.

The amendment to House Bill 38 was signed Dec. 14, and went into effect earlier this year, 60 days later.

Mustello said Friday, March 1, that the bill had been in the works for several years, and the change to the code should speed up the process for businesses looking to have a license transferred to them.

“You would have to wait for the LCB to meet then they have to approve of this license,” Mustello said. “It cuts down on the red tape that establishments and businesses have to go through to do businesses.”

The Butler Eagle in June 2023 reported the former Lyndora Hotel sold a liquor license to Sheetz in Harrisville. The Lyndora Hotel remained open through Sept. 6 under that license.

The state liquor control board’s website indicates the liquor license became effective for Sheetz Sept. 15.

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