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October 22, 2020

Wolf plans to waive Pennsylvania liquor license fees for bars, restaurants in 2021

Lawmakers say proposal will provide $20 million in relief to the battered industry

Business COVID-19
Wolf Restaurants Licenses Source/Office of Gov. Tom Wolf

Thousands of Pennsylvania bars and restaurants have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help ease that financial burden, Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers are working on plan to eliminate annual liquor license fees in 2021.

Pennsylvania bars and restaurants could see some significant financial relief in 2021 as they continue to suffer the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses.

Gov. Tom Wolf is working with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to waive pricey liquor license fees in 2021, providing more than $20 million in relief to 16,000 Pennsylvania restaurants, bars, catering clubs and hotels.

"My administration continues to look for innovative ways that we can support the bar and restaurant industry," Wolf said at a press conference in Pittsburgh on Thursday. "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."

Under the proposal, standard licensing fees would be waived through 2021 starting on Jan. 1.

"I'm glad I could work with Governor Wolf to bring help to our bars, restaurants, taverns and social clubs right now. I know this isn't a solution to the big problems this pandemic presents, and more help is needed," Rep. Dan Deasy said. "I'm working hard to enact additional measures that can help keep these vital employers in business."

Wolf was joined at LeMont Restaurant in Pittsburgh by a group of Democratic politicians from Allegheny County that included  state representatives Dan Deasy, Ed Gainey and Jake Wheatley, and Sen. Wayne Fontana.

Earlier this week, the Republican-led Pennsylvania House of Representatives narrowly failed to override the state's restrictions that limiting the capacity at restaurants. Restaurants are currently allowed to operate at 50% of their capacity indoors.

The state is in the midst of a "fall resurgence" of COVID-19 that has seen the number of coronavirus cases rise in every region of Pennsylvania.

"As new cases of the virus have jumped recently, our priority should be to continue to protect the population, and to provide targeted relief to industries most affected," Rep. Steve Malagari (D-Montgomery) said at Thursday's press conference. "Waiving liquor license fees gives some immediate relief to local businesses, while we wait for our colleagues in the General Assembly to take action to release the $1 billion remaining CARES Act funding to our communities."