On May 19, 2009, voters in West Lampeter Township overturned a ban on alcohol sales that had been in effect for 74 years. While the referendum had primarily been sought by the owners of the Willow Valley Resort, alcohol sales will now be allowed in the entire Township. Does this mean that bars and beer distributors will start popping up all over the Township? Based on our experience in representing restaurants and other liquor license holders, we do not believe such a result will occur.
In Pennsylvania, in order for anyone to open a business that sells alcohol, they must obtain a liquor license from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PA LCB). The process involves a detailed analysis of not only the owners and managers of the business in question, but also of the property in which sales are to take place. If those persons or premises do not meet the PA LCB standards, the license will not be approved.
Additionally, section 4-461 of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code generally puts a cap on the number of licenses issued in a particular county that is based on population, although there are exceptions for golf courses, bona fide hotels and other public venues. Because Lancaster County is usually at or near its cap, licenses will likely have to be purchased from another license holder, usually for a significant price. The license will then have to be transferred into the Township, which will be subject to the PA LCB’s approval and the Township’s zoning ordinances.
There are also protections for people who live near a proposed location for alcohol sales. For example, certain eligible individuals and institutions within a certain proximity to the location of the intended bar or restaurant can file a protest with the PA LCB.
Realistically, it is likely that a limited number of restaurants, either existing or new, will be able to meet the standards and afford the costs described above and obtain licenses. There may even be a new beer distributor or two. However, for the reasons discussed above, a flood of bars is unlikely.