Merski bill would bring pandemic relief to state’s alcohol producers

Many brewers, vineyards and distilleries ineligible under current hospitality program

HARRISBURG, April 1 – A newly introduced bill by state Rep. Bob Merski would assist the many Pennsylvania breweries, wineries and distilleries that have been hurt by the pandemic but are ineligible for relief under the current hospitality industry recovery program.

Merski, D-Erie, said his H.B. 1069 would provide a helping hand to local alcohol producers that fail to qualify for relief under the existing COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program because they are not classified as businesses that provide accommodations or serve food or drink on the premises.

“Pennsylvania’s breweries, wineries and distilleries play a vital role in the state’s economy, employing thousands and contributing billions annually in revenue,” Merski said. “Like so many industries, however, they have not escaped the impact of the pandemic. Despite creative strategies to counter the loss of sales from bar and restaurant closures, many – especially those with limited distribution channels – have struggled.

“Because many wineries, distilleries and craft breweries do not have on-premises dining, they are not eligible for relief under the existing COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Relief Program. My bill would change that by ensuring that these important producers have access to a critical funding source.”

Merski said the bill has been assigned to the House Liquor Control Committee and that he hopes to see it reach the full House quickly for consideration and a vote.

Under the $145 million CHIRP program announced by Gov. Tom Wolf last month, a business must have a North American Industry Classification System designation within the Accommodation subsector (721) or Food Services and Drinking Places subsector (722) and where accommodations, food or drink is served to or provided for the public, with or without charge.