Governor Wolf announces plan to waive liquor license fees for restaurants and bars

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Since the pandemic began, the service industry has been getting served a heaping plate of misfortune.

On Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered up hope by waiving liquor license fees for all bars, restaurants and hotels next year.

“It’s not their fault, and therefore they should not be forced to bear the financial burden of this alone,” said Gov. Wolf (D) Pennsylvania.

Alone is exactly where Republicans said the industry will stay with the governor’s proposal.

“There are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of jobs on the line here, and the governor today tossed them too short of a rope,” said Jason Gottesman, Pennsylvania House Republicans Caucus spokesperson.

Earlier this year, Republicans asked the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to reduce licensing fees for businesses. They were met with a letter from the board, saying it’s up to the Legislature.

“They don’t have the ability to reduce licensing fees or waive licensing fees without Legislature approval. So, the governor made some promises today that he doesn’t have the ability, nor does the liquor control board have the ability [to] fulfil,” Gottesman said.

“The liquor control board is an independent agency. So, their board will meet, and at their next meeting, they will — I hope — make the right decision here,” Wolf said.

The owners of 704 Lounge in Harrisburg said any help from the governor is a blessing, because the last seven months have been anything but.

“Its been a challenge and a nightmare,” said Russ Harr, owner of 704.

They’ve received grant money, but Harr said they need help with operating expenses, especially while keeping up with new rules like no alcohol sales after 11 p.m.

“Some of these mandates that we’re going through are preventing us from getting to that goal of a return. We are just keeping our head above water,” Harr said.

“Hot dogs are not a sandwich and neither are they a cure against COVID-19. So, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense that you need to have a meal in order to be served alcohol,” Gottesman said.

Harr said it’s up to each owner to keep their customers safe.

“The ones that don’t — they’re the ones who should be sanctioned and not have the rest of us be punished for it,” Harr said.

“It takes a lot of money to run a business, and this is where we’re all at,” said Brett Johnson, owner of 704 Lounge.

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