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Politics & Government

Pittsburgh Council to Consider Increase to Liquor License Transfer Fee

Citing the high number of establishments that subvert the city's higher liquor license fees by simply transferring licenses in from other municipalities, Pittsburgh City Council members said they're crafting legislation to substantially increase the city's license transfer fee.

At its Wednesday meeting, Council ordered a post agenda meeting to discuss the issue with experts. If passed, such legislation might either stem Pittsburgh's rising number of liquor licenses by discouraging transfers or serve to help fill the city's coffers.

Under state law, Council may only deny an inter-municipal liquor license transfer if it "finds that approval would adversely affect the welfare, health, peace and morals of the City of Pittsburgh or its residents."

That statute opens the door for easy transfers of liquor licenses from Allegheny County locales where licensure comes cheaper. Council President Darlene Harris said the city already has half of the county's licenses with more than 1,000, and the ratio grows every month. She said establishments often tell her they need to transfer because they couldn't find an open license in the city.

"Inactive licenses (in Pittsburgh) are 165, yet no one seems to be able to find a license in the city of Pittsburgh," Harris said.

Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess said the city should increase its transfer fee to $4,000 or $5,000.

"Although we can't stop the transfer, we can at least charge them — not a nuisance tax, but at least increase the fee significantly so the city gets a little more money from the transfer of funds," Burgess said.

As of the time of this article's publication, City Council had not yet posted a date or time for the post agenda meeting on inter-municipal liquor license transfers.