Hotel patrons are paying for a luxurious experience away from home and are expecting convenience at all times.  Part of this expected convenience is the ability to purchase alcohol at one or more locations on premises, including the hotel’s bar or restaurant, or in their own room.  Which brings me to my first, and most important point, you need to understand the limitations of your Hotel Liquor License (H License). 

You’ll need to know, among other things, the areas of the hotel that are considered to be part of the licensed premises and which are not, where you can serve alcohol on the premises, and whether you need a special permit to serve people at a particular event or in a particular location in or around the hotel property.  Additionally, you should be able to answer the following questions.  Do patrons have to remain on hotel property?  What if the hotel restaurant is not operated by the owner of the hotel – where can patrons take their drinks? 

It’s also important to know when you need to update your H License.  For instance, what happens if you make some renovations – should you update your license then?  You’ll likely need to since your H License relates to the specific floor plans for the hotel.

What about liability?  Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Act imposes liability on individuals and establishments that serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who causes damage to other persons or property.  In some instances, the law could apply where an establishment violates the Liquor Code for some other reason, like serving alcohol after hours, and the person served causes damage to another person or property.  That establishment could not only be sued for monetary relief by the victims of the intoxicated person, but could also face criminal charges for the violation which led to the damage and/or injury.

If you’re looking to obtain an H License from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the hotel must have, among other things, a minimum number of rooms unless it qualifies, applies, and is approved for an exemption.  The number of rooms required depends on the population of the municipality where the hotel is located.  Further, those rooms must meet certain other requirements, for example, each room must meet a square footage requirement, and a certain number of rooms must contain particular amenities.  However, if you can get your hands on a pre-September 1, 1949 H License, then your hotel would be “grandfathered in” and exempt from these room requirements.

For more information on Stark & Stark’s Beer & Spirits group, please click here.