Senators Iovino and Brewster met today with the Southwestern PA Tavern and Restaurant Association and bar and restaurant owners to discuss the industry’s need for relief. Also in attendance were Senators Costa, Fontana, and Bartolotta, and Representatives Mihalek, Ortitay, and Miller.
Allegheny County, PA – July 23, 2020 – Today, State Senators Jim Brewster and Pam Iovino announced a comprehensive proposal to provide emergency relief to Pennsylvania’s restaurants and taverns, which have seen significant financial loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown. The seven-point plan includes a $100 million grant program to retail liquor licensees using federal CARES Act funds, as well as a suite of policy changes to financially benefit these struggling businesses.
“Restaurants and taverns are not only favorite neighborhood destinations and community staples, they are the job creators and the cornerstone of vibrant main streets across Pennsylvania, representing the third-largest sector of the state’s economy – and they are in dire need of assistance,” said Senator Iovino (D – Allegheny & Washington). “As these small business owners struggle to determine if they can hang on, they need to know that there are lifelines available to them. This plan would direct financial relief to this specific retail sector and will help position our Commonwealth for a full and lasting economic recovery.”
“Restaurants, bars and the hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and we have to provide relief,” said Senator Brewster (D – Allegheny & Westmoreland). “Too many bars and restaurants are imperiled, cannot survive under strict mitigation, or have closed their doors putting men and women out of work. We have an obligation and responsibility to move aggressively and provide help now. The assistance package we are offering today is critical for bars and restaurants and their employees.”
Brewster proposed a six-point economic stimulus package in March that included bridge grants for small businesses, including bars and restaurants. He also authored a business reopening plan in April to re-open the economy while addressing the health threat.
The full proposal to provide relief to Pennsylvania’s bars and restaurants includes the following components:
- Provide targeted assistance under the Senate Democrats’ small business assistance program to restaurants and taverns. Carve out $100 million from the remaining CARES Act proceeds to capitalize a program to provide grants to these retail liquor licensees for revenue and capital losses experienced during shutdown periods.
- Increase the wholesale licensee discount for wine and spirit purchases from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) from 10% to 15% for at least nine months, to June 30, 2021 with a gradual phased reduction back to 10% after June 30, 2022. The total savings to the retail liquor licensee community will exceed $30 million
- Waive all license renewal and permit fees that are paid by restaurants and taverns for one year from the date of implementation, representing over $35 million annually.
- Eliminate late fees/penalties for delayed sales tax payments and allow restaurants to pay off delinquent accounts by June 30, 2021.
- Allow licensees to expand their licensed premises outdoors to non-contiguous areas within a certain distance of the licensee.
- Eliminate the $500 off-premises catering permit and current cap on hours/events for an off-premises catering permit during the declared state of emergency.
- Clarify ambiguous language in business interruption insurance policies to ensure claims filed during the COVID-19 pandemic are quickly and efficiently paid to businesses (Senate Bill 1127).
Under this proposal, liquor licensees that are cited for violating public health orders or the liquor code would be subject to forfeiture of any grants received or any fees waived by the PLCB.
Senators Iovino and Brewster will work closely with Senate leadership to see that relief to Pennsylvania bars and restaurants remains a legislative priority. And they encourage all Pennsylvanians to support their local restaurants and taverns to the greatest extent possible by ordering takeout or delivery; carryoutpa.com provides a listing of local businesses across the state.