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Q. I am a restaurant liquor licensee. What time must I clear out my bar of patrons? What time do employees have to leave? I received a citation for failing to have patrons vacate the premises. My premises was actually closed to the public, and I and two bartenders were sitting and chatting over a few beers at 3:30 A.M. after we cleaned up the place.

A. This question is one that recurs with some frequency. Just because all of the customers have left your restaurant premises, owners and their employees cannot linger on the closed premises after they have completed their “clean up” or other tasks. Once they stop working, they legally become patrons.

Section 4-499(a) of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code requires licensees to have all of their patrons vacate that area of their licensed establishment where alcoholic beverages are normally sold and served no later than one half hour after the licensee must legally stop selling alcoholic beverages. This means, for example, that if you are a restaurant liquor licensee, who by law must stop all sales of alcoholic beverages by 2:00 A.M., all of your patrons must leave the licensed premises by 2:30 A.M.

The law says “patrons” must vacate, but what about your employees? Must they also vacate the premises? In cases decided by the Office of Administrative Law Judge, it has been ruled that non-working employees must also vacate the premises. Employees who are not actually working will be considered to be patrons, and must also vacate the premises by 2:30 A.M.

Furthermore, any employees working on the restaurant premises may never be in possession of any alcoholic beverages after 2:30 A.M.

Club licensees, of course, may sell alcoholic beverages until 3:00 A.M. Clubs are then required to have all of their members and their guests vacate the club premises by 3:30 A.M. The same rule applies to employees and working members of clubs in that the club employees or working members cannot remain on the club premises after they have completed their post closing tasks past 3:30 A.M. And, any employees or members working on the club premises may never be in possession of any alcoholic beverages after 3:30 A.M.


Q. I own a restaurant with a restaurant liquor license and I also have a Sunday Sales Permit. I do not have a PLCB Extended Hours Food Permit. Can I sell food to patrons on Sundays before 11:00 A.M., which is the hour when I can legally commence sales of alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

A. You can legally sell food to patrons on your restaurant premises between the hours of 7:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. without the necessity of having a PLCB Extended Hours Food Permit. Normally, restaurant licensees may not have patrons on the licensed premises prior to the hour that you may legally commence sales of alcoholic beverages without possessing an Extended Hours Food Permit, but the Liquor Code provides an exception to this rule for restaurant liquor, hotel or eating place dispenser licensees.

As seen in the Observer Magazine, a monthly beverage journal magazine. Edward Taraskus contributes the Know the Law column.