Pennsylvania Drinking Laws

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September 1, 2011, Revised September 14, 2012

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PART 1 of 3



Purpose of this Guide

This guide gives a general idea of what is permitted and not permitted in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with a focus on Pittsburgh.



The information in this guide is an interpretation of current law and does not purport to be actual law. Please be advised that any code cited in this document can be revised or eliminated by the controlling authority without notice.



Title 47 Liquor is the Pennsylvania Code used for the controlling citations, except when amended by subsequent Acts. This is the law passed by the Commonwealth.

Citations are shown as: (47 P. S. § 0-000) or (47 P. S. §§ 0-000 & 0-000)

See Part 3(1), below. Note: The symbol for Section is §.


Supplemental Citations

Reference to the 2010 OFFICAL Pennsylvania LCB Liquor Code, Title 40 Liquor (the regulations of the Liquor Control Board), is as follows: Title 40 Pa Code Section {40 Pa Code 13.231}. The Pa. LCB also publishes an Unlawful Activities document (pdf). This document is cited as (UA). Acts passed by the Commonwealth or House Bills are also referenced in this document.


See the Pa Handbook About Responsible Alcohol for Pennsylvania Licensees (PDF)


Reference to the OFFCIAL 2010 Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, Title 67 Transportation is as follows: {67 Pa Code 11.1}.


Reference to the OFFCIAL City of Pittsburgh Code, is as follows: Title, Article, Section [6, VII, 601.1]. Title Six-Conduct, Article 1 Regulated Rights & Actions would be of interest to readers.


PART 2 of 3

Interpretive of the Pennsylvania Liquor Law

The following is an interpretive of the laws under the Pennsylvania Liquor Code arranged in alphabetical order by subject. Additional laws from the Commonwealth, Allegheny County, City of Pittsburgh, et al are also included.



(47 P. S. § 4-498) identifies unlawful advertising. See the part on unlawful advertizing in the PALCB Unlawful Activities document. This will apply to college newspapers. In-as-much as a college may hold a class on beer or wine, it cannot permit advertisements for alcohol in the school newspaper.


Oddity: Students may not see adverts from beer distributor or wineries in the school gazette but they may, if they are over 21, drink alcohol in the school dining hall or café. Yes, this gives me a headache.


After Hours Clubs

Serving outside of permitted hours is prohibited. See: Extended Hours & Speak-easies. Pa. law prohibits patrons of an establishment from being in the same room where alcohol is stored or displayed.


Age 21 (47 P. S. § 4-495(b)) applies

The minimum age for consuming alcohol in the Commonwealth is 21. There is an exception to the rule, as noted below. Although the law limits minors and children access to bars, those over the age of 18, but under the age of 21 can also be prohibited on entering clubs and other events after a certain time of day. See Drinking Age and Underage Drinking, below. Non-Alcoholic Beverages also applies.


Age 21 – Internet Access

Some websites operated by beer wholesale and retail companies may restrict access of those under the age of 21. At present, I can find no law requiring this.


All Day Drink Specials

Only one brand may be discounted for a single day. No discounts are permitted between midnight and 2:00 AM for all-day or happy hour reductions. See Happy Hour, below. If a bar has an all-day discount on a wine it cannot have an all-day discount on a beer for that same day.



The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania makes reference to “Brewed or Malt Beverage”, which is referred to in this document as “beer”. To be classified as beer, the alcoholic content must be at least 0.5% ABV, but does not have to contain malt. e.g. cider. There is no upper limit restriction for alcohol in beer in Pennsylvania.


Beer Identification (47 P. S. § 4-493(6))

It is unlawful to furnish or serve beer from any faucet, spigot or other dispensing apparatus, unless the trade name or brand of the product served shall appear in full sight of the customer and in legible lettering upon such faucet, spigot or dispensing apparatus.


Beer to Go (Take Out) (47 P. S. § 4-407)

Beer can be purchased from bars and restaurants to be taken home with some restrictions. Beer must in original, unopened containers. They must not be opened or consumed within the establishment. They may not be opened or consumed outside the establishment unless permitted by state or local authority. Private clubs are forbidden to sell alcoholic beverages for take-out purposes. See Growlers, below. As for beer, Pa. does not have a requirement that beer must be bagged but the bar owner can require it.


Quantity Restrictions

Beer: A limit of 192 ounces for one transaction. This equates to 12 cans or bottles of beer at 16 ounces per container. This applies to bas and restaurants but no longer to breweries. House Bill 242 allows Pennsylvania breweries to sell direct to customers in any size. Growlers od 64 ounces were considered keg but effectively that has been kaput.


Spirits cannot be purchased to take home from a bar or restaurant. Pa. Act 113 of 2011 permits distilleries to sell direct to customers at the distillery from 9:00 am until 11:000 pm. They may also provide samples of not more than 1.5 fluid ounces. Distilleries may have not more that two off-site locations.


Wine can be purchased at a restaurant to take home, per HB 48-2010. It must have been partially consumed and purchased with a meal.


Beer Distributors

Pa. Act 113 of 2011 allows beer distributors to sell from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm on Sunday. This is a change from noon to 5:00 pm. Monday through Saturday hours are from 8:00 to 11:00 pm.


Blood-Alcohol Content

The amount of alcohol in a person’s blood can be measured to determine a person’s sobriety.


The BAC for an adult with a minimum age of 21 is 0.08, effective September 30, 2003 (Act 24). The limit is lower for those under the age of 21 and also different for those holding a Commercial Driver’s License.


There are three (3) levels of impairment in Pennsylvania:

General Impairment (.08 to .099% BAC)

High BAC (.10 to .159% BAC)

Highest BAC (.16% and higher)


Each level has different penalties that can be imposed by the courts.


It was reported in the news that once you are suspected of being intoxicated, the authorities are required by law to administer a test within three hours of being taken into custody. Should the test be administered after such time the test could be excluded from court as reported in a court case.


(The) Bloody Mary Law

House Bill 242 (Act 113 of 2011) allows restaurants to serve before 11:00 am on Sunday. A restaurant that has food available for order at 9:00 am may sell alcohol from 9:00 am on Sunday (provided they have a Sunday permit).


Blue Laws

The Commonwealth passed laws that restricted business and pleasure activity on Sunday. They are known as Blue Laws. Although they are void for the most part, Sunday openings are different such that opening hours are different from other days of the week. A Sunday license is also required to sell alcohol on Sunday.


Brands of Beer Advertizing

Under Pennsylvania LCB law, advertizing of a brand is not permitted in a bar if that brand is not available (47 P. S. § 4-493(5)). (47 P. S. § 4-493(6)) applies to tap handles (known in the trade as markers).



As with beer identification (above), what the LCB is conveying with their regulations is that what is advertised must be available. This would avoid any bait & switch accusations. The customer should know what is offered without surprises. Yet the LCB fought for years to suppress the posting of alcohol content for beer. Supplying such is not a requirement by the LCB.


Brands of Beer List (47 P. S. § 4-488(c))

All beer sold in Pennsylvania must be registered in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth provides a list of registered bands that is frequently updated. The LCB maintains a list of Registered Brands (for beer).


Brew Pubs

After prohibition, brewing became legal in Pennsylvania but brewing with an attached restaurant was specifically not allowed. Brewpubs became legal in Pennsylvania in 1989. See {40 Pa Code 3.92} The Allegheny Brewery and Pub became Pennsylvania’s first brewpub. We now know it as the Penn Brewery (Tom Pastorius, founder)


Per Act 1 of 2006 (act number and/or date may be incorrect):  Holders of a brewery license may make Sunday sales at their restaurant or brewery pub, irrespective of the volume of food sales, if the licensed premises is at a public venue location.


A brewpub is a brewery with all rights of a traditional brewery other than it can own a restaurant, which is often a separate entity. There is no prohibition to hinder East End Brewery (Pittsburgh) from applying to become a brewpub.


Bring Your Own Bottle

BYOB is permitted in an unlicensed restaurant, as it is not prohibited. Some establishments that do not have liquor license will allow customers to bring beer (not common) or wine (very common) to have with their meal. A corking fee is often charged. Why I don’t know. Wasn’t that the inceptive to get you in?


Establishments that have a license are permitted, at the owner’s discretion, to allow beer or wine to come in. The LCB only requires that the patron show that the sales tax has been paid to the Commonwealth. I have been told from those in the business that a licensed establishment cannot allow outside alcohol in. I am trying to check this.


A bar or restaurant having a liquor license may also permit customers to bring their own bottle of wine or beer. There is no prohibition other than the owner’s consent and one LCB stipulation. Any bottle of wine or beer brought into an establishment must have the Pennsylvania tax paid on that bottle.


Candy (Chocolate) containing Liquor

(47 P. S. §§ 3-305.1(a) & 3-305.1(b))

(a) Notwithstanding the prohibition against the manufacture of confectionery containing alcohol as set forth in the fifth clause of subsection (a) of section 3 of the act of May 13, 1909 (P.L. 520, No. 292), referred to as the Pure Food Law, the manufacture, storage, transportation and delivery to points out-of-State by manufacturers of confectionery containing alcohol or liquor is permitted.

(b) The sale of confectionery containing alcohol or liquor is prohibited within this Commonwealth.


PA State 31 P.S. § 20.3.13

Department of Agriculture

Confectionery containing 0.5% or less alcohol by volume is permitted as it is considered alcohol free. The buyer can be of any age.


Case (of Beer) per Act 84 of 2006

Case. The minimum amount of fluid ounces for purposes of a case of malt or brewed beverages has been reduced from two hundred eighty-eight (288) to two hundred sixty-four (264). Thus, a “case” is now defined as a package prepared by the manufacturer for sale or distribution of twelve (12) or more original containers totaling two hundred sixty-four (264) or more fluid ounces of malt or brewed beverages, excepting those packages containing twenty-four (24) or more original containers each holding seven (7) fluid ounces or more.



Content not yet included.


Children in Bars (Regular Bars and Restaurants)

In general, under 21’s (minors) can enter a bar if in the company of at least one parent or court appointed legal guardian over the age of 25. Minors may sit at the bar with the adult during all opening hours. A licensed owner or server may at no time give a minor any non-alcoholic drink. This includes virgin Bloody Mary’s or other drinks that are normally considered adult. This is part if the Crimes Code. Minors cannot go to a bar to pick-up food to go unless an adult is present. The Pizza Hut Rule makes an exception.


Some venues ask parents to remove minors after certain times during band and dance times. In-as-much as the LCB has no restriction the owner can set rules.


Children in Bars (The Pizza Hut Rule)

If a restaurant (not a typical bar) has food sales of 50% or more, minors may enter without an adult to eat. Usually these places have a bar separated from regular table service and at no time may minors sit at the bar.  


See: (47 P. S. § 4-493(14)) & {40 Pa Code 5.321(c)(1)}



§5.321 Service in establishments primarily serving food

 (a) Section 493(14) of the Liquor Code (47 P. S. § 4-493(14)) creates several exceptions to the general prohibition of minors being present in licensed premises. One of these exceptions, known as the ‘‘Pizza Hut’’ exception, permits a minor to be present in a restaurant, hotel or retail dispenser (but not a club) licensed premises that has gross sales of food and nonalcoholic beverages equal to at least 50% of its combined gross sales of both food and alcoholic beverages.


(b) Licensees qualifying for this exception will not be cited for unlawfully allowing minors to frequent the licensed premises.


(c) To qualify for this exception, a licensee will assure that:


(1) Minors are not permitted to sit at the bar counter of the premises.


(2) Alcoholic beverages are not served to any adult at the table or booth where the minor is seated, unless the minor is also there with a parent, legal guardian or proper supervisor.


(3) Sales of food and nonalcoholic beverages at the licensed premises during the preceding 12-month licensing year are at least 50% of the combined gross sales of both food and alcoholic beverages


The Pennsylvania State Police Liquor Control Enforcement guidelines indicate that a person performing proper supervision must not be under the age of 25 years. Title 47 and Title 40 do not specify this but should not be assumed to be incorrect. 



Cider is produced by the fermentation of only apple juice to an alcohol content between 0.5% and 5.5% ABV. It is to be sold as alcoholic cider and not as a wine, a wine product or as a substitute for wine. Under Pa. law (47 P. S. § 1-102), it comes under the definition of malt or brewed beverage. As such it is to be sold through beer distributors.


Wine is fermented from grapes and other fruits, having an alcoholic content of 24% or less. The term "wine" shall not include any products containing alcohol derived from malt, grain, cereal, molasses or cactus. Cider fermented over 5.5% is classified as a wine in Pa. and is to be sold through the Pa. State Store System but it cannot be sold as wine.


See Mead, below.


City of Pittsburgh Code

The City of Pittsburgh Code is posted on a third-party site. Although the City does not specifically regulate the liquor license of bars and restaurants, they do regulate the land, building and business use. Should the City attempt to close a problem bar it can use ordinances regulation occupancy, noise or zoning. (47 P. S. § 4-493.1) applies.


Class of licenses

(Partial List)

(C) Club License, for private clubs. No take-out beer to non-members.

(CC) Catering License

(E) Deli License, may not sell wines or spirits.

(H) Hotel License

(R) Restaurant License, typical for bars and restaurants

Extensions to the above licenses are:

(AP) Amusement Permit {40 Pa Code 5.30}

(EHF) Extended Hours Food Permit, requires a SS extension {40 Pa Code 11.171}

(SS) Sunday Sales Permit for E, H or R licenses {40 Pa Code 11.171}

Note:  An AP extension is not required for television, jukebox or live instrumental music.


Cleaning of Taps, Coils, Tap Rods & Connections

Dispensing systems are required to be cleaned every 7 days for beer {40 Pa Code 5.51} and every 30 days for wine {40 Pa Code 11.101}. Beer lines may be cleaned every eight weeks if the BLM2000 system is used (UA). This system uses audio signals to retard yeast and bacteria from growing. One would think the jukebox in some bars would qualify for this.



Clubs are private venues that have some differences with bars and restaurants under Pa. law. The chief difference is operating hours and admission. They require a membership list {40 Pa Code5.72} and basically operate as a club with by-laws, meetings, etc. Private clubs are forbidden to sell alcoholic beverages for take-out purposes per (47 P. S. § 4-407).


Credit, Selling on

It is illegal to sell alcohol on credit in Pennsylvania. However, this has been interpreted by the state to exclude buying with credit cards, which is now permitted. Buying on credit is typically having a store sell you items and keeping a “book” on your account. See {40 Pa Code 11.191}


Daylight Savings Time (47 P. S. § 4-462(b))

When clocks “fall back” one hour, bars, etc., are permitted to stay open. When clocks “move ahead” one hour, bars, etc., must close.



Distillers may not sell to anyone in Pennsylvania except those permitted to sell alcohol {40 Pa Code 11.34(c)}.


Dram Shop Law (47 P. S. § 4-497)

This law places responsibility on a server if a person is in an accident while being drunk. The last server attending the person can be held in neglect. It can be recognized that a minor or drunk is unable to be self-responsible and that a sober individual serving should have the foresight to protect those unable to protect themselves.


This author recognizes the legality of this law but it overlooks a few points. The drunken person may not appear to be drunk until he/she leaves the bar. It the bar has a doorman checking for ID, does the doorman bear some of the responsibility? How can the server be accurately identified? Are there reliable witnesses?


Drink Tax

Officially called the Allegheny County Alcoholic Beverage Tax is a tax imposed at the point of sale. As of January 1, 2009, the tax was 7%. The tax is not to be charged when buying beer from a distributor.


Drinking Age

People are permitted to consume alcoholic beverages in Pennsylvania from the time they are 21 years old. Legally, a person of any age may be required to produce a license verifying age. Although it is not common for people that appear to be older than 21 years old to show ID, it is still legally required and must be produced upon request. See License requirements for Customers, below.


The minimum age permitted to drink in the United States is 21 year old. Prior to1984, the minimum age was determined by individual states and legally each state can raise or lower the age from the national standard. But not without side affects.

 The (Federal) National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 required all states to raise their minimum purchase and public possession of alcohol age to 21. States that did not and had lower age limits faced loss of transportation money.


Drinking-up Time

(47 P. S. § 4-499 applies)

In Pennsylvania, bars and restaurants may serve alcohol from 7:00 am until 2:00 am the next morning, Monday thru Saturday (47 P. S. § 4-406). Sunday hours are from 11:00am to 2:00 am the next morning. All patrons must leave the premise no matter what they have not finished eating or drinking. However, patrons have a thirty-minute drinking-up time after the official closing time, which is commonly called last call. At 2:30 am (3:30 for clubs) all alcohol must be cleared from the bar, tables and other areas. The thirty-minute rule and vacating the premises comes under (47 P. S. § 4-499)


Private clubs are permitted to stay open until 3:00 am with a thirty minute drinking up time.


Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Alcohol content in a person’s blood can impair judgment and mobility. The content can be measured and the amount can used to determine if one able to drive a vehicle. Alcohol is represented as grams of alcohol (ethanol) per 100 milliliters of blood.


Pa. Vehicle Code: the Vehicle Code replaced The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code. One change that occurred was the definition of a vehicle to include non-motorized vehicles (skateboards, bicycles, animals, etc.) and boats (powered and non-powered). 


Driving under any controlled substance (not just alcohol) can lead to a DUI. Should you refuse a field test you are suppose to loose your license but this is not entirely true as two high profile Pittsburgh people have refused but released by a judge.


Dry Communities

(47 P. S. § 4-432(c) applies)

Although alcohol consumption is permitted in Pennsylvania, not all communities permit alcohol to be served within the community. This is referred to as being dry, as in a dry town. There are several dry communities in Allegheny County. There are no totally dry counties in Pennsylvania. Dry Allegheny Co. towns are (as of January 1, 2011): Bellevue, Ben Avon, Bradford Woods, Edgewood, Forest Hills, Ingram and Wilkinsburg.


DUI Checkpoints

The US Supreme Court ruled that properly conducted DUI checkpoints do not violate the constitution. That does not make checkpoints mandatory but only permits them. Some states have specifically prohibited their use and some, although not prohibiting them, do not conduct them. Checkpoints are conducted in Pennsylvania.


Election Day Opening

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania permits license holders to open on Election Day. At one time the sale of alcohol was not allowed until 1 hour after the poles closed. Holders of a Sunday license were exempt from this restriction.


Empty Bottles in Establishments

Per (47 P. S. § 4-491(5)) all bottles sold in an establishment for consumption within, and when so emptied of original contents, shall be broken within 24 hours unless such container is a decorative decanter. This is the clause that prohibits a bottle from being refilled. The LCB permits the bottles to remain un-broken if they are going to a recycle center.


Extended Hours

(47 P. S. § 4-499 applies)

An establishment having a liquor license may extend opening hours beyond the required closing time with permission from the Liquor Control Board. The establishment must comply with certain restrictions. The extension must be for a single event and not for a duration spanning days or months. No alcohol may be served during the extended time and all alcohol must be locked in a separate room.


Free Beer

Yes, this is a dream come true. Restaurants, pizza shops and similar venues that do not have a liquor license to sell alcohol can give it away for free. This is generally beer but wine can be given as well. Spirits are not due to the high cost. An establishment may offer a free drink, but not having a license does not exempt them from the law. Under Commonwealth law a drink can be offered but without any restriction. The drinker cannot be asked for a donation or asked to buy a meal or service. If a free drink is offered it is done with no expectation of a return. It is usually done to attract customers or to thank customers for their patronage. See {40 Pa Code 13.53} for additional restrictions.


The Pennsylvania State Police Enforcement division does monitor such activity and they have sent officers to venues that advertize free drinks. Although no supporting citations are given here, such activity has been reported in major newspapers.


Gambling (aka Gaming)

Gambling, called gaming now that it is upscale, is not permitted in an establishment holding a license to serve. The state lottery is exempt and can be sold in licensed taverns.



Brewpubs and breweries are permitted to sell growlers to go of 64 ounces (minimum) or more to the public per (47 P. S. § 4-440). Sales of this nature cannot be less than 64 ounces and cannot be consumed on the premise. The 192 ounce limit appears non applicable. Act 113 of 2011 modifies this as breweries may now sell in any size.


Growler Refills

Breweries may only refill their own branded growlers and not those branded from other breweries of brewpubs due to an original container clause in their license. Breweries would be able to do so if they obtain a brewpub license. Brewpubs may refill branded growlers from other breweries or brewpubs as they have a restaurant retail license.


Taverns and restaurants are permitted (because they are not prohibited) to sell growlers but with a 192 ounce limit. The 64-ounce minimum is not addressed in Title 47 or Title 40 as the conscience thought process since inception was that draft beer was illegal. Brewpubs and breweries have an original container clause that does not seem to apply to bars and restaurants.


Branded Growlers

It is expected that brewpubs and breweries have branded growlers but some taverns may also have growlers with their own brand. Although taverns are permitted to refill other branded growlers they are not required to do so and my may say no.



These are in conjunction with Construction Junction (yes, I was happy to write that) and list names of establishments that will refill them with draft beer from that establishment. If the establishment is a brewery then that would be prohibited from refilling this particular growler.


Happy Hour

Alcoholic drinks can be reduced in price in order to attract customers. New regulations passed in 2011 continue with the weekly total of 14 hours. Whereas the bar could have no more than two consecutive hours per day, the new rules permit taking no more than two hours from one day to have no more than four hours on another day. Act 11 (2011) (HB 148 of 2011) does not specify that the 4 hours be consecutive but any two hours must be consecutive. Happy hour is not permitted after mid night. The Pennsylvania State Police are of the opinion that happy hour is not permitted on weekends.

See: Mug Clubs, below.


Under the old Commonwealth law, happy hour could not exceed two hours per day. Some license holders have advertized more hours but they are incorrect in their interpretation. There is no prohibition on happy hours on weekends, although it is seldom applied. The old law, as well as the new law permits a total of 14 hours per week. See this Pa. State Police Enforcement document for additional reference.


Home Brewed Beer – Selling of

There is talk of allowing home brewed beer to be sold at farmer’s markets. I have little information on this to date but I do have some comments. Brewing beer at a home or in a brewery is a manufacturing process. Recently the federal government placed tax restrictions on roll your own cigarette shops and this could apply to this activity as well. I also have a belief that the county health people may inquire to your code compliance.


Home Brewing – State Regulations

Brewing beer at home is permitted under Federal law and although not specifically permitted under Pennsylvania law, it is not prohibited. In fact, Pa. LCB rules allow for home-brew to be dispensed at tastings and other events other than it cannot be sole in any way.


Home Brewing – Federal Regulations

Brewing beer at home became legal on October 14, 1978 when Public Law was signed by then president Jimmy Carter. It became effective February 1979. See Code of Federal Regulations Part 25 Beer, Beer for Personal or Family Use, 25.205 thru 25. 207. It permits a brewer to 18 years old. State law governs. Pa. law (47 P. S. § 4-492) permits any person to brew up to 200 gallons per year for personal use but cannot be sold.


Hours – Prohibition of Sales

(47 P. S. § 4-406) applies to bars and restaurants.

(47 P. S. § 4-406) applies to Super Bowl Sunday and December 31st.

(47 P. S. § 4-432(f)) applies to hotels, delis, retail and golf courses for sales on Sunday.

(47 P. S. § 4-492.1) applies to manufacturers, importing distributors and distributors.

(47 P. S. § 4-492(7)) prohibits clubs from selling between 3:00am to 7:00am.

(47 P. S. § 4-492(7)) applies to hotels, delis and public service licensee.

(47 P. S. § 4-499) applies to all establishments.


Identification, Proper form of (47 P. S. § 4-495(a))

The LCB identifies various forms of identification that permits a person to buy and consume alcohol. See License Requirements for Customers, below.


License Requirements for Customers

Any person of legal age permitted to consume alcoholic beverages must have a license verifying that person’s age (47 P. S. § 4-495(b)) applies to hotels, delis, retail and golf courses for sales on Sunday. An accepted license is a government issued driver’s license bearing a photograph of the person, a government issued non-driving identification card with photograph, a passport or a military identification card. A passport issued by another country or a travel visa is also permitted.


The Commonwealth does have a procedure in place that will permit a person of legal age to drink if he/she does not have a photo license verifying age. All bars are required to keep and issue a form that the drinker must sign and declare that he is of legal age. The bar must maintain this record for a period of time. (47 P. S. § 4-495(b)) applies to bars and (47 P. S. § 4-495) applies to State Stores.


Prior to the introduction of photo driver’s licenses, the Liquor Control Board issued identification cards to verify a person’s right to drink. These cards are no longer issued. Driver’s licenses and non-driving identification cards are issued by the Commonwealth Department of Transportation.


License Requirements for Owners

No person may manufacture, sell or transport alcoholic beverages in the Commonwealth without a license issued by the Commonwealth. Owners may wish to read the Bring Your Own Bottle section, above.


The LCB says that you can refuse service if you suspect the identification is not proper. You can have the person fill-out the Declaration of Age Card (the 931 card). The LCB says that you are not permitted to confiscate what you think is a fake ID card. You can make a copy of it and give it to the police.


Low Alcohol Beer (Near Beer) (3.2 Beer)

See Non-Alcoholic Beverages, below




Mead is fermented honey. Matt Falenski of Laurel Highlands Meadery in Greensburg is local to Pittsburgh. His products should be available at Pipers Pub on the South Side. If you like wine or cider you should try this delightful drink. It is often called hone-wine. I hate that term but I am outnumbered.



See: (47 P. S. § 4-493(14))


Mug Clubs

Bars may institute a mug club for “members”, but Pa. LCB rules still apply. Here are some mug club rules that may violate LCB rules: Extra beer at no extra cost, drink all day, extra drinking hours, free food, must pay to join, two drinks for one. A bar cannot entice a person to buy a drink.


See: Happy Hour, above.


Non-Alcoholic Beverages

The Pennsylvania Crimes Code makes it unlawful to sell or furnish any beverage intended-to-be sold as non-alcoholic beer, wine or liquor to any person less than twenty-one (21) years of age.



Nudity is not permitted in an establishment holding a license other than a club. Clubs are different than taverns and restaurants as they are members-only. Local law may prevent nudity but under state liquor law it is permitted. I may elaborate on this in future but for now, no nudity in bars or restaurants.


Open Container Law

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania prohibits the driver from drinking while driving and everyone from possessing an open container within the compartment of an automobile.  Some communities may prohibit a person of any age from carrying a container of an alcoholic beverage in an unsealed, or open top. You do not have to be seen drinking or be suspicious of being intoxicated to be stopped.


Typically, containers are sealed during manufacturing. With the popularity of buying growlers to take draft beer home, it can be debated if the container is “open” or not as the cap is not factory sealed. One brewpub that sold growlers to go actually sealed the cap with a heat gun and shrink-wrap tape as this was their interpretation of the law.


The City of Pittsburgh has an open container law prohibiting persons holding or carrying alcohol in open containers in public except in a controlled environment. Title 6 601.08(a) [6, I, 601.08(a)] No person shall consume alcoholic beverages or carry or possess an open container of alcoholic beverages in the public right-of-way, or on private property without the consent of the landowner or tenant, except that this prohibition shall not apply to block parties held under special permit issued by the Department of Public Works and in accordance with regulations issued pursuant thereto.


The Borough of Bellevue, near Pittsburgh, does not have an open container law (as of July 2012) so drinking on the sidewalk is legal. I don’t know if anyone has tried or what the authorities have done to stop it. HOWEVER, Bellevue is a dry town so no restaurant can apply for a liquor license. You can bring your own for inside consumption but you cannot sit in a sidewalk café area with your own.


Pennsylvania Crimes Code

Here is a link to the Pa. LCB page on the crimes code, vehicle code and the operation of a boat. See Vehicle Code, below.


Pennsylvania Liquor Code

The buying, selling, manufacturing, transportation of, and other aspects of alcohol use in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is regulated under the Pennsylvania Code, Title 40 Liquor. Here is a direct link to Title 40.


The following chapters of the liquor code are listed below.

PART I. Liquor Control Board

Chapter 1.  General Provisions

Chapter 3.  License Applications

Chapter 5.  Duties and Rights of Licensees

Chapter 7.  Transfer, Extension, Surrender and Exchange of Licenses

Chapter 9.  Transportation, Importation, Disposition and Storage

Chapter 11. Purchases and Sales Chapter 13. Promotion

Chapter 15. Special Rules of Administrative Practice and Procedure Regarding Matters Before the Office of Administrative Law Judge

Chapter 17. Special Rules of Practice and Procedure for Matters Before the Board


For answers to legal inquiries, contact:

Office of Chief Counsel

PA Liquor Control Board

401 Northwest Office Building

Harrisburg, PA 17124-0001

(717) 783-9454, Fax (717) 787-8820


Pennsylvania Liquor Code Enforcement

(47 P. S. § 2-211 applies)

Enforcement of the Liquor Code is performed by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE). Guidelines have been published.


Prior to 1987 the Liquor Control Board had agents to enforce the code.


Public Intoxication & Urination

Most communities do not permit public intoxication or urination and a person can be issued a citation for such. City of Pittsburgh Code [6, I, 601.16] prohibits public urination & defecation as well as failure to clean afterwards. Pittsburgh police actually have issued citations for failure to clean urine from sidewalks by late night party poopers.


Public Venue

A public venue (block party, etc.) having a license for such event may not allow alcohol for take home (47 P. S. § 4-412). Consumption of alcohol must be within the permitted hours.


RAMP (Responsible Alcohol Management Program)

This is a PLCB program that promotes responsible alcohol service by owners and servers in the alcohol business. See this page from the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association.


Retail Price of Beer

A bar owner may set the price of beer but the price may not be capriciously changed during a day or day-to-day.


Serving Size

In the United States, alcohol is served by the container and not by the measure. Beer is sold by the glass and not by the pint unless specifically stated.


The Commonwealth does identify a “standard” measure:

A standard-sized alcoholic beverage is defined as {40 Pa Code 13.53}:

12 fluid ounces of a malt or brewed beverage

4 fluid ounces of wine (including fortified wine)

1˝ fluid ounces of liquor

But, there is no requirement that they be followed.


Smoking Exemptions

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has no regulations concerning smoking in licensed establishments. The Clean Indoor Air Act (Act 27 of 2008) prohibits smoking in all public areas but does allow for exemptions under certain conditions. The Clean Indoor Air Act and the exemptions are controlled by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The City of Philadelphia is specifically exempt of this Act.


The Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement has the responsibility for investigating violations of the CIAA in licensed liquor establishments throughout the Commonwealth. The CIAA prohibits smoking in most public places, including restaurants, bars, private clubs and portions of casino floors. More information regarding the CIAA can be found at the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website


Having a smoking exemption may prohibit an establishment from doing business on Sunday and other special event days.


The LCB permits person between 17 and 21 to work in a licensed establishment {40 Pa Code 5.11}, but the smoking exemption prohibits any person under that age or 21 from being in an exempted area. You must be 18 to serve alcohol.


The sale of food must not exceed 20% of the gross sales of the business.


Allegheny County Code (880-2) prohibits smoking and follows the state prohibition and (880-5) permits enforcement by the Allegheny County health Department. To help muddle the law, the code restricts smoking from within 5 feet of an entrance but not less than 15 feet from a no-smoking sign. What to do if the sign is on a door?



Illegal as serving outside of permitted hours is prohibited and license required. A speak-easy is a place that does not have a license to sell or serve alcohol. As such they do not comply with any codes nor carry any form of insurance. A license bar that stays open after normal business hours is an after hours club. Both are illegal.


The City of Pittsburgh Code [6, I, 601.07] requires anyone selling alcohol to have a license and anyone patronizing a place selling alcohol to have a license.


This was taken from Wiki: The term "speakeasy" might have originated in Pennsylvania in 1888, when the Brooks High-License Act raised the state's fee for a saloon license from $50 to $500. The number of licensed bars promptly plummeted, but some bars continued to operate illegally. Kate Hester had run a saloon for years in McKeesport, just outside of Pittsburgh. She refused to pay the new license fee and wanted to keep from drawing attention to her illegal business. When her customers got too rowdy, she would hush them by whispering, "Speak easy, boys! Speak easy!" This expression became common in McKeesport and spread to Pittsburgh.


St. Patrick’s Day

The Commonwealth has granted permission for license holders not having a Sunday license to operate should this day fall on a Sunday.


State Forest Picnic Areas

Title 17 of the Pennsylvania Code: Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has language regulating drinking and conduct in Pennsylvania.


Section 23.12 prohibits possession and consumption of alcohol on state forest picnic areas.

Section 23.24 prohibits disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, and obscene or lewd acts or dress.


Sunday Opening

Licensed establishments may not serve alcohol on Sunday without a Sunday Sales license issued by the LCB. Certain requirements must be met per {40 Pa Code 11.171}. (47 P. S. § 4-432(f)) applies to hotels, delis, retail and golf courses for sales on Sunday.


In general: food sales must be at least 30% of gross sales of food and alcoholic beverages. To obtain a smoking exemption, the percentage of food with respect to the gross must not exceed 20%. Sunday hours are from 11:00 am to 2:00 am, Monday. A bar must hit the 30% mark (annually) but there is no requirement to actually sell food in Sunday. There is not requirement to sell 30% food and non-alcoholic beverages on a Sunday. This requirement was at one time set at 40% but is now 30% per {40 Pa Code 11.172}.


Super Bowl Sunday (47 P. S. § 4-406)

The Commonwealth has granted permission for license holders not having a Sunday license to operate should this day fall on a Sunday.


December 31st (47 P. S. § 4-406)

The Commonwealth has granted permission for license holders not having a Sunday license to operate should this day fall on a Sunday.


Take Out (To Go)

Distributors are not permitted to break a case. Taverns (a.k.a. Bottle Shops) and restaurants may sell as little as one bottle but mot more than 192 ounces during a visit. Restaurants may allow you to buy your bottle of wine to take home, but the bottle had to have been opened in the restaurant and partially consumed. Spirits may not be purchased other than a state controlled retail store.



Bars and other establishments are permitted to sell beer may sell not more that the equivalent of 192 ounces to one customer at one time. It has been shown that a customer will leave and re-enter the same bar (without the previous purchase) and buy a subsequent purchase.



Restaurants may sell wine to go only if the bottle was part of a meal and partially consumed. Restaurants cannot sell unopened wine to go. Wine cannot be sold in containers exceeding 5 liters {40 Pa Code 11.104}, except sparkling wines can exceed 5 liters. No minimum quantity is given. Wine in kegs is not permitted exceeding 5 liters except for sparkling wines. Part {40 Pa Code 11.82(c)} relates to the clergy (47 P. S. § 4-409). Containers of wine for use in churches, temple, or synagogues may be in containers of unlimited size and of glass or wood per {40 Pa Code 11.83}.


See Cider, above, for a definition of wine.


Wine Imported into Pennsylvania (Internet Sales) (47 P. S. § 4-488) applies. Sellers from outside Pennsylvania are required to have a direct shipping license from Pa. and must follow certain requirements.



Bars and restaurants cannot sell spirits to go. Until the Commonwealth privatizes the sale of spirits, they can only be purchased from a state Wine & Spirit store. Make no attempt to hold one’s breath for privatizing.


Three-Tier System

Pennsylvania law allows for the brewing of beer, but brewers (first tier) may not self distribute. Retail outlets (third tier) receive beer from independent distributors (second tier). Usually, beer goes to wholesalers who have contract rights for various brands. The wholesalers then distribute to retail outlets or smaller distributors.


The three-tier system was established with the repeal of prohibition in 1933.


Transporting Alcohol from Outside the Commonwealth

It is illegal to bring alcohol into the Commonwealth without a license unless it is a small quantity for personal use. A one-gallon limit is permitted but should the quantity exceed one-gallon the state can impose a mark-up and tax {40 Code 9.83}.


Transporting Alcohol from Outside the Country

When bringing alcohol into the Commonwealth from another state or from an international origin, Federal and State rules apply. US Customs agents check for goods coming into the country. 


Underage Drinking

Pennsylvania does not permit persons under the age of 21 to be served alcohol, except under very restrictive circumstances. Person under 21 could loose driving privileges when applying for a driver’s license in the future.


Unlawful Acts

Unlawful acts performed by a license holder are covered in (47 P. S. § 4-493).

Highlights within this section are: (1) Sale to intoxicated person, (7) (8) Strength of alcohol on labels or advertisements, (10) Entertainment, (13) Employment of minors, (14) Minors at the bar and (16) Selling at unlawful hours. Other parts may or may not be show above.


Vehicle Code

This was formerly the Motor Vehicle Code. The MVC did not prevent impaired people from operating other vehicles (such as driving a boat drunk) so the code was changed to prohibit operating any type vehicle or device that propels a person. This allowed prosecution for driving under the influence when operating a boat, bicycle, lawn mower, tractor, or riding a horse. All of these and more have been identified in the news.


Wineries, Limited

Limited wineries are permitted under {40 Pa Code 11.111}.


PART 3 of 3

Commentary, Explanations, Feedback


Part 3(1): The Pennsylvania Crimes Code (as illustrated in this document) lists activity


One thing that is very clear to me is that the law is not very clear to many of those in the business and those regulating and enforcing the business.


© 2011 – 2013 Edward P. Vidunas, All Rights Reserved