With Spring comes the emergence of many things, including reopening of decks, porches, sidewalk cafés, patios and other outdoor seating options. It’s a lovely idea to have music or other entertainment in these areas, whether live or piped to the outside area from inside. In doing so, however, be mindful of the Liquor Code’s noise restrictions. Specifically, that the use or permitted use of a loudspeaker or similar device which results in music or other entertainment, including the advertisement of that entertainment, being heard beyond a licensee’s property line is prohibited. This is true regardless of whether the music or other entertainment originates from inside or outside of the licensed premises.
Municipalities may seek an exemption from the Liquor Code noise restriction. Generally, licensees prompt municipalities to seek this exemption. To be eligible to seek the exemption, municipalities must have a local noise ordinance and must also have passed a resolution confirming its support of seeking the exemption and its intent to enforce the local noise ordinance. Often, municipalities will seek the exemption for specific geographical areas in the municipality rather than the entire municipality. Within 60 days of receiving a petition for an exemption from the noise ordinance, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) must disapprove it, approve an area more limited than what was requested or approve it in its entirety. Public notice and a hearing must take place within the identified area prior to PLCB rendering its decision.
If the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement receives a complaint about a noise violation, they will investigate it, and the likelihood is that the licensee will not know about the investigation until a notice of violation is received. Complaints come not only from disgruntled residential neighbors, but also competitors, so don’t think you are immune from the filing of a complaint. If you receive a citation for a noise violation, it is recommended that you contact your attorney for counsel. Even though a first offense has a fairly minimal repercussion (probably a fine for several hundred dollars), repeat offenses will result in a more severe penalty and can even lead to a license suspension or refusal to renew a license.