When the Pennsylvania Liquor Code was amended recently to allow distributors to sell growlers, some savvy individuals realized that the boundaries could be pushed, and other types of ready-to-consume beverages may be able to fit within the parameters of what beer distributors may now sell in a “growler”. One of the biggest trends in the beer distributor business has been the sale of alcoholic slushies. When this first started, there was much discussion and debate as to whether the liquor code actually permitted this practice and what position the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board would take regarding the practice. Fortunately, within the last couple of months, the General Counsel’s office for the PLCB has issued some additional guidance which clarifies that under the right circumstances, a beer distributor may sell slushies for off-premises consumption.
The PLCB in its most recent guidance has acknowledged that the Liquor Code broadly defines what is considered to be a “refillable growler”, and any refillable container that can be resealed would generally meet the definition. In the context of the sale of these slushies, most distributors have been placing them in refillable plastic cups which have a lid which must be removed before the beverage can be consumed, or if the lid has a hole for a straw or a place to drink, a sticker or other seal is placed over that so that the container is completely enclosed.
Next, it is important for distributors to understand that the language of the Liquor Code does not permit any fortification, adulteration, or any change to the character of the beverage being sold. In other words, a distributor cannot even add ice to the machines in order to create the slushy. The only change that may occur is that as the beverage is frozen, if it creates a different consistency, that is permissible. Any mixing, flavoring, blending, or other changes to the beverage are not permitted.
Finally, it is important to note that the Liquor Code requires any licensee who is using a malt or brewed beverage dispensing system (traditionally that would be aimed at a tap system) to clean their units at least once every seven days. This requirement would presumably extend to a slushy machine as well. Accordingly, for those distributors who avail themselves to this opportunity, they should be aware of the requirements to clean their system, and their requirements to keep records of that cleaning on site and available for inspection by the PLCB or an enforcement agent from the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.
While these opportunities afford a new means of revenue for distributors, they should be aware of the restrictions and regulations that are in place for those that choose to sell these beverages.