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Daniel C. Conlon


Co-chair, Hospitality Group

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Sip, Bid, Savor: Inside Pennsylvania’s 12th Auction of Expired Restaurant Licenses

Daniel C., (412) 594-3951

Last week the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s (PLCB) released information regarding its 12th auction of expired restaurant licenses.. This auction is expected to have a significant impact on the culinary landscape across 20 counties of the state. This article provides an overview of the auction’s key details, bidding process, and implications for potential license holders.

Exploring Culinary Entrepreneurship Across Pennsylvania

Counties with an Expired License

Twenty (20) counties in Pennsylvania will each have one (1) expired restaurant license available for bid at the PLCB’s 12th auction. These licenses are distributed across the following diverse counties: Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bradford, Clearfield, Clinton, Delaware, Erie, Greene, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montgomery, Northampton, Northumberland, Pike, Potter, and Somerset, reflecting the state’s commitment to equitable opportunities for restaurant entrepreneurs.

Bidding Process Made Clear

Bidders interested in participating in this auction must adhere to specific guidelines. The minimum bid for each license starts at $25,000, ensuring a baseline commitment from potential license holders.  However, recent history suggests that most counties are likely to fetch significantly higher prices in the upcoming auction, as demonstrated by past auctions.

Also, Bidders are required to submit a bid surety of $5,000 or 5% of the total bid amount, whichever is greater. This measure is designed to discourage frivolous bids and ensure that participants are genuinely committed.

The auction will employ a sealed bid process. Bids must be submitted by noon on Monday, September 25. Following the submission deadline, bids will be opened on Wednesday, September 27, with auction winners subsequently determined.

An important point to keep in mind is that earning the highest bid at the auction will not automatically make you the owner of the license. The highest responsive bidder will earn the right to submit a license application to the PLCB within six months of the auction award.

Contingencies and Escrow

To maintain the integrity of the auction process, the PLCB has established certain contingencies. If the highest bidder fails to complete the bid payment within two weeks of auction award, the second-highest bidder will have the opportunity to apply for the license. All bids will be held in escrow by the PLCB until license application approval.

Past Success and Future Impact

The PLCB’s previous 11 auctions have collectively generated an impressive $34.2 million in revenue. This substantial sum, along with the additional $1.9 million currently in escrow, underscores the significant financial impact of these auctions.

In the last auction, held in November 2022, twenty-one licenses were up for grabs across the state. Although one rural license in Elk County sold for $25,111, the rest commanded prices in the tens or hundreds of thousands. On average, winning bids reached $154,833, with the most expensive license, in Chester County, sold for just over $460,000.

The November 2022 auction defied a trend of decreasing prices seen in previous years.  This auction also marked a turnaround, being the first time since November 2017 that the average bid exceeded $100,000. Earlier auctions in June 2020 and September 2019 had averaged $89,000 and $83,000, respectively.


Given the intricacies of liquor license acquisition and the legal nuances involved, aspiring entrepreneurs who plan to participate in the PLCB’s 12th license auction should seek guidance from a qualified liquor license attorney. Before embarking on the exciting journey of owning a liquor license, schedule a consultation with an experienced liquor license attorney in the hospitality group at Tucker Arensberg, P.C. to make informed decisions and maximize your chances of success.

August 14, 2023

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