By: KDKA-TV News Staff
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced in Pittsburgh today that he is working to get liquor license fees waived; a plan he says will help restaurants and bars across the state hit hard economically by the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.
He held a press conference Thursday afternoon at LeMont on Mount Washington to make the announcement. He was joined by Pittsburgh-area state lawmakers, Reps. Dan Deasy, Ed Gainey, Jake Wheatley and Sen. Wayne Fontana. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald was also in attendance.
This plan is aimed at helping the commonwealth’s restaurant and bar industry with the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
Gov. Wolf says he is working with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in order to waive the standard licensing fees through 2021, starting on Jan. 1, 2021.
According to the governor’s administration, “more than 16,000 Pennsylvania restaurants and bars, clubs, catering clubs and hotels would see $20 million in relief.”
In a news release, Gov. Wolf said, “As we enter the anticipated fall resurgence of COVID-19 cases, the very contagious nature of this virus makes gathering indoors publicly at full capacity dangerous. Still, we know that restaurant and bar owners in Pennsylvania are committed to keeping their employees and customers safe and the vast majority of these businesses have followed safety precautions and invested in new procedures and supplies, but COVID continues to hurt this industry. My administration continues to look for innovative ways that we can support the bar and restaurant industry. Eliminating liquor license fees is an important step toward helping bars and restaurants retain the capital they need to weather the storm of COVID-19.”
Gov. Wolf says he is also in support of the federal Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act. It is a bipartisan bill in Congress that would provide $120 billion to help independent restaurants.
“Bars and restaurants need and deserve our help,” Gov. Wolf said. “It’s not their fault that COVID has hit their industry particularly hard.”
— MEGHAN SCHILLER (@MeghanKDKA) October 22, 2020
Republicans in the state House of Representatives released a statement on the liquor license fee plan, saying it does not go far enough.
The statement reads in part:
“Earlier this week, Democrats had a chance to join Republicans in providing real assistance to this struggling industry and its workers by overriding the Governor’s veto of House Bill 2513, but instead too many of them sold their votes for today’s half measure of help that does not even take effect until next year should it be adopted by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
“Instead of Democrats blindly following this governor’s misguided mandates, they should listen to the families, workers, and small business owners who have been devastated by his overbroad and inconsistent shutdown and stand ready to balance safety and mitigation with a path toward normalcy.”
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association released this statement:
“Today, Gov. Tom Wolf announced his support to waive “standard” 2021 licensing fees for taverns and licensed restaurants.
“Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association stated that a comprehensive package would be needed to bail out the industry and save jobs – including ALL licensing fees. We certainly hope that the Governor means ALL fees liquor license holders pay in his definition of “standard” including but not limited to off-premise catering, Sunday permits, and small games of chance.
“While licensing fee help is part of the solution, much more needs to be done, particularly considering the size of the industry and its role in the Pennsylvania economy.
“We would have liked to have seen a comprehensive package promoted by the governor.”
Last week, Gov. Wolf vetoed House Bill 2513 that would have allowed increased occupancy in bars and restaurants beyond 50 percent, let people buy a drink without buying food and allowed customers to sit at the bar.
Gov. Wolf said signing it would endanger public health by letting places open up to full indoor capacity.
The bill passed overwhelmingly in the state House and Senate.
Stay with KDKA for Meghan Schiller’s full report on this story at 5 and 6 p.m.
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