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Unlocking Opportunities: Exploring Changes to Pennsylvania’s Catering Permit Under Act 51 of 2023

Daniel C. Conlondconlon@tuckerlaw.com, (412) 594-3951

What is an Off-Site Catering Permit?

An Off-Premises Catering Permit (“Catering Permit”) empowers Restaurant, Hotel, and Eating Place licensees to sell alcohol outside their regular licensed premises. It enables the provision of food paired with alcoholic beverages for specific groups or individuals. The Off-Premises Catering Permit is separate from a catering license and a liquor license.

How Much is a Catering Permit in PA?

It is recommended that licensees apply for a Catering Permit at the start of each calendar year so that licensees can use the permit during all twelve months of the year. In 2024, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) will waive the annual fee. Starting January 1, 2025, the annual fee will be $500.00.  


This article explores the origins of the Catering Permit, how it has changed over time, including recent changes made by Act No. 51 of 2023, and applicable regulations. Act 51 of 2023 will be effective on January 1, 2025.

Act 116 of 2012: The Inception of Pennsylvania’s Catering Permit

Governor Tom Corbett signed House Bill No. 2267, referred to as Act 116 of 2012, into law on July 5, 2012. This legislation brought forth significant changes to Pennsylvania’s Liquor Code, notably the establishment of the Catering Permit. This permit enabled Restaurant, Hotel, and Eating Place licensees to sell alcohol away from their licensed premises. The PA Liquor Code defines a catering event as:

“… furnishing of food prepared on the premises or brought onto the premises already prepared in conjunction with alcoholic beverages for the accommodation of a person or an identifiable group of people, not the general public, who made arrangements for the function at least thirty days in advance.”  

Act 81 of 2021: Evolution of Catering Permit

Governor Wolf signed House Bill No. 425 into law, known as Act 81 of 2021, on November 5, 2021. This legislation brought about sweeping changes to Catering Permits, introducing fresh prospects and significant modifications to existing regulations:

  1. Unlimited Catering Events: Licensees now possess the freedom to host an unrestricted number of catered functions, discarding the previous restriction of 52 events annually.
  2. Elimination of Application Fee: The $500.00 annual application fee was waived. **Starting January 1, 2025, the annual fee will be $500.00.     
  3. Extended Function Duration: The former limitation of five-hour durations for catered functions has been lifted, granting licensees up to six hours per day to cater an event.
  4. Extended Application Window: The prior deadline of March 1st for annual applications is no longer in effect, allowing applicants to submit requests outside this timeframe. However, it is still recommended that licensees apply for a Catering Permit at the start of the calendar year to benefit most from having the permit.

Changes to PA Catering Permit from Act 116 of 2012 to Act 81 of 2021 Summarized:

  • Unlimited number of catered functions (was restricted to 52 events annually)
  • $500 annual application fee was waived
  • 6 hours per day to cater an event (was 5 hours)
  • March 1st deadline for applications was removed

Act 51 of 2023

On December 14, 2023, Governor Joshua Shapiro signed House Bill 1160, also known as Act No. 51 of 2023, that makes permanent most of the changes made by Act 81, (i.e., points 1 – 4 above). Act 81 will expire on December 31, 2024, and Act 51 of 2023 will be effective on January 1, 2025.  

Rules Governing Catering Permit

The Liquor Code and Board’s regulations for Catering Permits stipulate the following:

  • Advance Notice: Local authorities must receive written notice of each event at least seven (7) days beforehand, while the PLCB requires fourteen (14) days’ written notice before each catered event.
  • Duration: Each catered function can only last six hours per day, and end by midnight, unless the event is on December 31st.
  • Server Compliance: All servers at catered events must comply with RAMP certifications.
  • Alcohol Limitation: Patrons are prohibited from removing alcohol from the licensed location.
  • No Distance Restrictions: Licensees can host a catered function anywhere in Pennsylvania, regardless of the distance from their main location.
  • Event Location Compliance: The location of the catered event must adhere to most Liquor Code provisions, including restrictions on loudspeakers or devices for entertainment beyond the property line.
  • Location Restrictions: The catered function cannot occur at an already licensed location or any site with a pending or protested transfer application. Additionally, a Catering Permit cannot be used for a mobile event.
  • Enforcement Authority: The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Code Enforcement holds the authority to issue citations for Liquor Code violations on the catered premises. Any citations are against the licensee with an active Catering Permit at the time of the violation.

Given the complexities involved, it is advisable for licensees to consult an experienced hospitality or liquor license attorney before applying for a Catering Permit. For more information, contact Daniel Conlon at (412) 594-3951 or at dconlon@tuckerlaw.com.

December 18, 2023

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