Distilleries and Tasting Rooms Fall Under PA’s New Drinking Restrictions

Luminary Distilling Meal

Pennsylvania breweries, wineries and distilleries had to have had their fingers crossed that the Governor’s recent targeted mitigation order really did only apply to bars and restaurants as the order added several new restrictions, requiring that among other things a meal be served with any alcoholic beverage transaction.

Despite many alcohol producers in the state not normally serving food and having just invested in new purchases to take their businesses outdoors or to make their interiors safer, they have not been spared the statewide measures that went into effect on Thursday, July 16th.

The biggest effects of the Targeted Mitigation Order from Governor Wolf is that indoor capacity has been further reduced to 25%, no seating at bars and most importantly, “prohibition from conducting operations unless the facility offers sit-down, dine-in meals or is serving take-out sales of alcoholic beverages.”

This sparked rapid debate on what constituted a meal and further if this rule would extend to producers that normally are not required to offer food.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has just published an extensive Frequently Asked Questions list that addresses those questions.

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PA Distillers Making Hand Sanitizer

Hand Sanitizer Made by Maggie's Farm and donated to Pittsburgh Health Dept.

Even before the Federal Government gave them the green light, several Pennsylvania distillers were moving from spirits production to making hand sanitizer, a suddenly in demand product that even hospitals are openly requesting.

Among the first was Lehigh Valley’s Eight Oaks Distilery. The switch has even been documented by the Associated Press and Popular Mechanics.

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All PA Federal Legislators Support Craft Beverage Modernization

This week representative Fred Keller joined his fellow Pennsylvania lawmakers in supporting making the Craft Beverage Modernization Act (FET bill) a permanent law.

With Keller’s endorsement of the act, one hundred percent of Pennsylvania’s Senators and Representatives are cosponsors of the Craft Beverage Modernization Act.

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Distilleries Facing 400% Tax Increase

Barrels at Dad’s Hat

Craft distilleries are facing an uncertain future as they may be facing a 400% tax increase come January 1st. In 2017, a temporary tax cut was enacted that dropped the excise tax on liquor made from small distillers from $13.50 per proof gallon to $2.70 per proof gallon. In addition to the shear amount of the tax, the tax was due when the alcohol left the distiller, so it needed to be paid way before the sales became to come in. With the tax relief many distilleries reinvested in their business, adding employees, equipment and locations.

The tax relief is set to expire at the end of 2019. The Distilled Spirits Council is among the organizations lobbying to make the cuts permanent.

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PA Distilleries Get Longer Hours

PA State Capital at Night

Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 947, aka the Craft Beer and Spirits Parity act, into law last week. It allows Pennsylvania breweries and distilleries to have the same operating hours as Pennsylvania wineries. Breweries and distilleries, as well as their satellite tasting rooms can now sell their products from 9 am to midnight Monday through Saturday and Sunday till 11 pm.

The bill was co-sponsored by Lehigh County’s Rep. Peter G. Schweyer and Anthony Brichta. The new rules will go into effect within 60 days.