HARRISBURG – Members of the York County Republican delegation are questioning the timing and business acumen of Gov. Tom Wolf, who on Thursday announced an effort to address the financial struggles of Pennsylvania’s restaurants, bars and taverns during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor, who this week vetoed legislation that would have removed certain operating restrictions on the hospitality industry, is pushing to have standard liquor licensing fees waived for the 2021 calendar year.
State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) and state Reps. Seth Grove (R-Dover), Mike Jones (R-York Township), Dawn Keefer (R-Dillsburg), Kate Klunk (R-Hanover) and Stan Saylor (R-Red Lion and majority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee) issued the following statement on the heels of the governor’s news conference in western Pennsylvania:
“This is not the first time Gov. Wolf has ‘ridden into town on his horse’ after the fact and attempted to save the day. In the past he rescued realtors, opened schools, sent construction crews back to work and permitted curbside liquor store sales to resume after ignoring efforts by the Legislature that would have accomplished the exact same thing. This time, he thinks he is throwing the hospitality industry a life preserver after his Monday veto of legislation that would have allowed restaurants and bars to break free from some of the coronavirus restrictions.
“The governor today called himself ‘rookie at politics.’ In this instance, he’s acting like a rookie businessman. His ‘$20 million of savings to restaurants with liquor licensees’ is a hollow statistic. It is simply the average price of a license (approximately $12,000) times the number of retail liquor licenses in the state (somewhere in excess of 16,000). No entity truly saves $20 million. If anything, that figure represents $20 million fewer dollars in unpaid licenses going into the General Fund during an already difficult budget cycle. In addition, a good restaurant, bar or tavern can make up the price of the license in a relatively short period of time, especially during the holiday season (which we’re about to enter). Anyone with a business background knows that, and the proposal must still be approved by the state Legislature and NOT the Liquor Control Board. Also, what about restaurants that don’t sell alcohol? No license? No soup for you!
“These businesses survive on foot traffic. We trust them to operate within CDC guidelines – it’s their livelihood – and trust their customers to make responsible choices. If restaurants, bars and taverns continue to struggle and close at the current rate, they’ll be fewer businessmen and women around to enjoy not having to pay for a liquor license.”