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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, bartenders and I were sitting and chatting at 3:30 A.M. after we cleaned up the place. Also the husband of one of the bartenders was waiting to give her a ride home. We were not drinking.

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 legally be considered patrons, and must also vacate the premises by 2:30 A.M.

Also any of your employee’s friends, spouses, parents and the like, may not wait on the licensed premises for the employee to finish working, as for example where the husband is providing transportation for his wife the bartender.

Furthermore, any employees working on the restaurant premises may never be in possession of any alcoholic beverages after 2:30 A.M. If you and your employees and the bartender’s husband were in possession of any alcoholic beverages at 3:30 A.M., the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement would have also included the charge of permitting patrons to possess alcoholic beverages after 2:30 A.M. in the citation.

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 and their associates in that the club employees, working members and associates cannot remain on the club premises past 3:30 A.M. after they have completed their post-closing tasks. And, any employees or members working on the club premises may never be in possession of any alcoholic beverages after 3:30 A.M.

You should consult with your attorney about this citation case.