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Pa.L.C.B. Issues Guidance on Decorative Bottles in a Licensed Establishment

PA Liquor Law

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board issued an Advisory Opinion regarding a licensee’s use of empty liquor or wine bottles as decoration in their restaurant.  The inquiry came from a Pennsylvania licensee who requested a clarification on the rule after receiving conflicting statements from Liquor Control Enforcement and the Pa.L.C.B.  In short, the Pa.L.C.B. held that a licensee must destroy all empty bottles that were originally purchased from the Pa.L.C.B., and the empty bottles may not be used as decoration in a licensed establishment.

From a legal standpoint, the Pa.L.C.B. notes that all “packages in which liquors were contained, except those decanter packages that the board determines to be decorative” must be broken or recycled within 24 hours, unless the licensee participates in a municipal recycling program or a voluntary recycling program.  However, a licensee can submit a request to the Pa.L.C.B. Bureau of Licensing for permission to use empty bottles as decoration.

Not all hope is lost, however, because the Pa.L.C.B. states that the above only applies to bottles purchased by the licensees themselves.  This means, and the Pa.L.C.B. states, that bottles purchased privately (in their individual capacity as a consumer) from the Pa.L.C.B. and later emptied, or empty bottles purchased from a non-licensee, may be used as decoration without Pa.L.C.B. approval.  Although they do not give guidance on how to empty these privately-purchased bottles (we can think of a few ways to help with that), it is recommended to retain receipts from the private purchases as proof that they were not purchased by the licensee.  The level of regulation in Pennsylvania of alcohol distribution is quite remarkable.

For information regarding national and state liquor law matters or general manufacturing and distribution advice, please contact our Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution Practice Group: Liquor Law Department Chair Theodore J. Zeller III, Esquire (; David C. Berger, Esquire ( for Pennsylvania and New Jersey retail and manufacturing licensing; or contact our offices at 610-391-1800.