Bars: Take Substantial Steps and Avoid Having Your License Suspended or Revoked

Posted in Beer & Spirits

In Jim Jay Enterprises, Inc. t/a Thunder Rolls v. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board,the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed the revocation of a bar’s restaurant liquor license for failure to appropriately address security issues related to criminal/illegal activity at the licensed premises. Over the course of approximately two years, numerous altercations between patrons, both physical and verbal, were reported and responded to by local police, two incidents of drug activity, reports of gambling, and one incident of a minor entering the bar, occurred in and around the licensed premises. The licensee also had one adjudicated citation. When the licensee requested a renewal of its liquor license, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board denied the request on the basis that the licensee had not timely and adequately addressed the security and gambling concerns at the bar.

Despite a favorable result for the licensee on appeal to the trial court, the Commonwealth Court upheld the LCB’s decision not to renew the license based on the bar’s history of violations and its failure to remedy the same. The LCB’s decision not the renew the license hinged on the fact that the bar lacked proper surveillance and security personnel to control the fighting, public intoxication and other violations at the licensed premises. While the licensee did have some security in place – surveillance cameras inside the licensed premises, a list of banned patrons, and a bouncer/security guard on occasion – it was not enough for the LCB, which noted that the licensee failed to take “appropriate substantial corrective measures to address the problems and issues at its licensed premises in a timely manner.”

All licensees should note that, when addressing the renewal of a liquor license, the LCB has “the authority to consider whether a licensee has taken substantial steps to address [certain] criminal activity…” Further, if a licensee knows of illegal activity by an employee or patron, the licensee must take substantial steps to attempt to prevent the wrongdoing.