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LICENSE RENEWAL OR VALIDATION AND TAX CLEARANCES

I filed my restaurant liquor license renewal application with the PLCB. I, however, have a tax problem with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, and therefore, I do not have a tax clearance from Revenue. My accountant told me that he will have my taxes filed and cleared shortly. Since I filed the renewal application, will I be able to operate at the start of the new license term? Can I obtain some sort of temporary authority while my taxes are being cleared?

Licensees may not sell liquor or brewed beverages until their license renewal application or the validation application is approved by the PLCB and the liquor license or an authority to operate is issued to the premises. Your renewal or validation application is not complete until such time as you obtain the tax clearance form the Department of Revenue. The PLCB legally cannot approve the renewal or the validation until your state taxes are cleared. There is no temporary authority available to you that can be issued by the PLCB pending your tax clearance. The burden is on you to quickly comply with all of the tax requirements so that your license renewal or validation application can be approved by the PLCB.

Should you sell alcoholic beverages when the license is not renewed, you could be cited by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, for conducting sales when the license was not renewed.

PLCB OBJECTION TO RENEWAL OF LICENSE

Q. I have a restaurant liquor license and have operated my premises without any citations until the past year. I have had three (3) citations involving sales to minors, all when I was not on the premises. The PLCB has sent me a letter objecting to the renewal of my liquor license claiming I abused my licensing privileges because of these sales to minors violations. What should I do? What is the next step?

A. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has obviously reviewed your citation history regarding the three (3) citations for sales to minors, and is now objecting to the renewal of your restaurant liquor license because of the citations. The Liquor Board has the authority to review a licensee’s citation history to determine whether or not the licensee has abused the privilege of holding a liquor license to such an extent that the liquor license should not be renewed.

First, you should consult with an attorney and make sure that there will be an appeal hearing scheduled on the Board’s objections to the renewal of your license. And, you also want to make sure that you will have the authority to operate pending the hearing being held and the Liquor Board’s ultimate decision on the renewal of your license. Remember, if there is no automatic scheduling of a hearing by the PLCB, which would be noted in your letter from the PLCB, you must request a hearing from the Board within twenty (20) days of receipt of the notice of the objection letter. If the Board does not automatically grant you operating authority, you must request the authority from the PLCB to operate your business pending the Board’s decision which may take several months. Without the authority to operate, you must cease the sales of alcoholic beverages. Please note that if your state taxes are not current, the PLCB cannot issue the authority letter for you to operate.

At the hearing, which is held before a PLCB Hearing Examiner, you will have to present evidence as to what positive steps that you have taken to correct and prevent a repetition of the violation of conducting sales to minors. Thereafter, the PLCB will make a decision on the license renewal and send you the decision. If the PLCB decides not to renew the license, then you must appeal the decision to your local county court of common pleas within twenty (20) days of the Board’s decision.

Your license will be renewed if you present a strong case at the hearing. However, the Board, before it approves your license renewal, may require you to enter into a Conditional Licensing Agreement which would impose certain conditions or restrictions on the liquor license in the event of any further violations.

If you have not done so, you should enroll in the PLCB’s Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP).

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