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Pennsylvania Relents, Considers Allowing Liquor Discounts

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Mug Club members in Pennsylvania are now one step closer to being able to enjoy beer discounts without fear of aggressive crackdowns from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Watchdog reports.

Usually offered by establishments, Mug Clubs are groups which offer discounts for food and alcoholic beverages, as well as t-shirts and other special benefits. Under previous rules, such discounts were illegal, since according to the Liquor Control Board, they were counted as inducements to buy.

Iron Hill Brewery was targeted in 2012 by the Board after the brewery provided discounts and reward points as a type of customer loyalty program. It was found to be in violation of acceptable discount practices, causing other similar establishments to reevaluate the legality of their policies.

“It gives your patrons a reason to come back,” said Amy Christie, executive director of the Pennsylvania Tavern Association said. “It’s so commonplace in the business industry that a lot of people just didn’t realize that what they were doing was apparently illegal according to the liquor code.”

Bill 2069, sponsored by Rep. Kurt Masser, was just passed in the state House permitting discounts on food and alcoholic beverages to patrons belonging to a group, but it has yet to clear the Senate. An amendment to the bill stipulated that discounts cannot be offered during closing hours, which are from midnight to 2 a.m.

Iron Hill’s director of brewing options, Mark Edelson, is pleased that Pennsylvania is catching up to its neighboring states, all of which count loyalty programs as legal under their alcohol regulations.

“The current prohibitions exclude traditional Mug Clubs from being used as a way to promote loyalty and this isn’t fair to the customer,” Edelson told Watchdog. “Loyalty programs play, and have always played, a vital role for tavern and restaurant owners seeking to grow their business.”

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