Types of Enforcement

Bureau personnel investigate various types of activity involving Pennsylvania's liquor laws, gambling, and violations of the Clean Indoor Air Act.

Border Patrols

This joint initiative with local Troops involves the apprehension and prosecution of individuals who bring back alcoholic beverages in the Commonwealth from bordering states. This illegal activity results in lost tax revenue to the Commonwealth. Investigations are generally conducted through undercover surveillance of liquor and beer retail outlets in neighboring states.

Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA)

The Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement is responsible for investigating CIAA violations in licensed liquor establishments throughout the Commonwealth. The CIAA prohibits smoking in most public places, including restaurants, bars, private clubs, and portions of casino floors. CIAA information can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.


The Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement is responsible for investigating complaints of unlawful gambling activity in all establishments possessing a license issued by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).

The following information is intended to provide general guidance only. It is not intended to be a complete legal analysis of the statutes and court decisions that pertain to gambling in Pennsylvania.

The THREE elements of unlawful gambling are consideration, chance, and reward:

  • Consideration is a monetary condition to participate.
  • Chance is the randomness of some act.
  • Reward is the opportunity to win compensation e.g. monetary or merchandise that has a value equal to or greater than the consideration.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board answers commonly asked questions regarding these issues, which can be found by selecting Legal/Advisory Notices.

Questions regarding unlawful gambling within an establishment licensed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board should be directed to the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement or the county district attorney.

Licensed Investigations

Investigations are conducted at licensed establishments to identify violations of the Liquor Code, 47 P.S.; the Liquor Control Board Regulations, 40 Pa. Code; 18 Pa. C.S.; or any other liquor-related law of the Commonwealth.

Minor Patrols

An assignment of more than one Enforcement Officer within a District Enforcement Office to randomly inspect licensed establishments for the illegal sales of alcoholic beverages to minors. The program is optional and may be run at the discretion of the District Office Commander.

Nuisance Bars

Nuisance Bar Investigations

Investigations of a licensed establishment that is operated by a licensee or their employees in such a manner that a disregard for the sensibilities of a surrounding area is manifested. Further, the operation continually endangers the life and health of patrons and residents, offends the senses, violates the laws of decency, and obstructs the reasonable and comfortable use of property in its vicinity. If the investigation establishes that the licensed premises is a nuisance, the courts may order, under the Liquor Code, 47 P.S., Subsection 611, padlocking the premises for up to one year.

Philadelphia District Attorney Nuisance Bar Task Force

This Task Force is comprised of several government and private agencies that examine complaints from citizens, within Philadelphia County, regarding allegations of a licensee operating a bar, restaurant, club, delicatessen, or beer distributor in such a manner that licensee, employee, or patron activities have an immediate and negative impact on the surrounding community or neighborhood. Those licensees identified as such will be investigated by the Task Force for nuisance activities with the intent to close the alleged offender under Nuisances, § 611 of Act 14 of 1987. Closure under this Act will cause the padlocking of the facility for up to one year and possible forfeiture of the physical property and liquor license. Also, the licensee may be found liable for damages to the affected community and may be required to pay a monetary settlement. The Pennsylvania State Police, BLCE is a member of this Task Force.

Routine (Open) Inspections

Inspections of licensed establishments are conducted to ensure compliance with physical and administrative requirements for holding a liquor license.

Unlicensed Investigations

Investigations of unlicensed establishments, commonly referred to as "speakeasies," are investigations to determine if sales of liquor, alcohol, or malt or brewed beverages are occurring without a license being issued to do so by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. After establishing probable cause for the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages, seizure and criminal proceedings may be initiated.

Unlawful sales of liquor, alcohol, or malt or brewed beverages occur when a license is not issued by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and a monetary condition is requested to obtain liquor, alcohol, or malt or brewed beverages.

Examples of unlawful sales are as follows: A ticket price that includes food, entertainment, and liquor, alcohol, or malt or brewed beverages; an event where an entrance fee (monetary payment) must be made in order to obtain liquor, alcohol, or malt or brewed beverages.

A person who sells or offers to sell any liquor or malt or brewed beverage without being licensed violates Sales Without a License (Liquor Code Title 47, Sections 491.1, 492.2, and 492.3) and shall, in addition to any other penalty prescribed by law, be sentenced to pay a fine of two dollars ($2.00) per fluid ounce for each container of malt or brewed beverages and four dollars ($4.00) per fluid ounce for each container of wine or liquor found on the premises where the sale was made or attempted. The amount of fine per container will be based upon the capacity of the container when full, whether or not it is full at the time of the sale or attempted sale. In addition, all malt or brewed beverages, wine, and liquor found on the premises shall be confiscated. If a person fails to pay the full amount of the fine levied, the premises on which the malt or brewed beverages, wine, or liquor was found shall be subject to a lien in the amount of the unpaid fine if the premises are owned by the person against whom the fine was levied or by any other person who had knowledge of the proscribed activity.

Worthless Checks

Investigations conducted due to checks written by a licensee for the purchase of liquor, alcohol, or malt or brewed beverages that are returned by the financial institution due to insufficient funds or unavailable funds.