Without. allows restaurants serving alcohol to use speakers for entertainment

HARRISBURG — Liquor restaurants and other venues with state liquor licenses and live entertainment received a gift from Pennsylvania on Monday: loudspeakers.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law a bill to allow establishments holding liquor licenses in all counties except Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to use loudspeakers to amplify music or entertainment. One caveat is that noise outside cannot exceed 75 decibels – roughly the noise level produced by a typical vacuum cleaner.

Previously, the State Liquor Code only licensed canteens for amps.

Supporters said the law would support outdoor dining — which became a big draw during the COVID-19 restrictions — and not prevent municipalities from issuing nuisance noise violations.

Not everyone was on board. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate late last week, but 14 representatives in the House voted “no.”

Republican Mark Gillen of Berks County was one of them, comparing it to a 2017 law expanding the sale of fireworks that drew a flurry of complaints.

“I could see it creating quality of life problems in communities,” Gillen said of the new law.

He noted that he requires amp use to end at 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday evenings and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.

“So they’re going at midnight? My nine-year-old daughter, the last time I checked, had been in bed for three hours at that point,” Gillen said.

Democratic Sen. Lisa Boscola of Northampton County said she would give a boost to restaurants and other venues with alcohol sales and live entertainment.

“They are still recovering from the pandemic and are not back where they should be,” she said.

The law took effect immediately upon Wolf’s signature on Monday.

Lauren Brinjac, senior director of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, said it was timely because outdoor dining season is in full swing.

The law states that a liquor license holder outside of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh can use the loudspeakers as long as “the sound of music or other entertainment, or the advertising thereof, does not exceed 75 decibels beyond the boundary of the licensee’s property.”

Previously, Brinjac said, a license holder would be in violation of the liquor code “if you can hear any music outside their property line.”

Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Liquor and Tavern Licensed Association, called it a fair update to outdated liquor laws.

“It certainly encourages the use of outdoor dining with a low sound level such as acoustic music. And, we’re sure customers, musicians and licensed venues will benefit,” Moran said.

The bill that went to Wolf’s desk was created by Republican Rep. Jesse Topper of Bedford County, but the language on the speakers first came from Republican Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill of York County.

Information on a Yale University environmental health and safety website listed a vacuum cleaner that produces about 75 decibels.

The State Police will be responsible for the implementation of the new law.

David Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, said the new law clearly did not replace local noise ordinances. One practical effect, he said, could be to remove some of the burden of noise enforcement from local police and transfer it to state police.

Another part of the law states that beer produced by an out-of-state producer under a contract with a state entity must be distributed through Pennsylvania’s three-tier system — which includes brewers, distributors and retailers.

Supporters of the law previously said loopholes were allowing out-of-state brewing companies that set up a small brewery in Pennsylvania to take advantage of benefits intended for Pennsylvania-based brewers.

Morning Call Capitol Correspondent Ford Turner can be reached at [email protected]

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