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I have a restaurant liquor license, and my restaurant premises includes a sidewalk café seating 16 directly in front of the restaurant. On warm nights, I keep the front French doors open to allow easy access for my patrons. I play soft background music throughout the restaurant through a sound system. I have carefully placed the speakers so that the music is directed toward the inside of the restaurant. However, when the French doors are kept open some music can be heard outside to the street. The music can just about be heard outside of the premises because of the level of the patrons’ conversation. I possess an amusement permit, but I never have live music or a D.J. If the music can definitely barely be heard, I presume that I am not in violation of the Liquor Code.

A. You are in violation of the Liquor Board’s regulation since you can “definitely” hear the sound of amplified music outside of your licensed premises.

The PLCB’s regulation states that “A licensee may not use or permit to be used inside or outside of the licensed premises a loudspeaker or similar device whereby the sound of music or other entertainment, or the advertisement thereof, can be heard on the outside of the licensed premises.” Therefore, if a State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) Officer standing directly outside of your premises can hear the sound of your amplified music or other entertainment, you can be cited for violation of this PLCB regulation.

The Liquor Board’s regulation does not make a distinction between amplified background music and a live rock and roll band. Furthermore, the regulation does not cite any measured distance from the licensed premises for the purposes of hearing the music outside of your premises. If the amplified music emanating from your premises can be heard 170 feet away from your restaurant, you can easily understand that is a clear and indisputable violation. As a consequence of the way that the regulation is drafted, even if the amplified music can be heard only five (5) feet outside of your licensed premises, you have a violation.

The fact that you have a licensed outside serving area does not allow you to have amplified music heard outside of your licensed premises, even only on the outside café area. This really becomes a difficult situation for licensees, but the regulation is strict. If music can be heard just outside your premises, it is a violation.

The purpose of the regulation is to prevent amplified music from disturbing your neighbors. However, even if there are no complaints from your neighbors, the State Police could independently investigate your premises and issue a citation against your license for having amplified music heard off of your licensed premises.

You must take constant preventive measures by monitoring the outside of your premises to insure that your background amplified music cannot be heard outside of your open French doors. You do not need to draw unwelcome law enforcement attention to your restaurant.

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