Entrepreneurs in Food & Beverage TechCelerator can win up to $30,000

Food and beverage entrepreneurs and start-up companies have the chance to win up to $30,000 in Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ first Food & Beverage TechCelerator.

The TechCelerator is open to those in Ben Franklin’s 32-county Pennsylvania footprint who are “developing scalable, innovative and technology-focused products/services in the food and beverage industry,” a release explained.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Julie Bratton said there have been previous TechCelerators but this is the first time the concept is targeted to a specific industry.

The 10-week virtual business boot camp provides an opportunity for enrollees to build and de-risk their business model, culminating in a pitch competition with a chance to win up to 30 grand.

More specifically, Food & Beverage TechCelerator participants explore the likelihood of success and learn to minimize risks; take part in one-on-one mentoring with business coaches from Ben Franklin and college Small Business Development Centers; expand their network and engage with other entrepreneurs; and create an investor pitch to present to a panel of local judges.

The weekly Zoom classes are Tuesdays, starting Jan. 10, 2023, and running through March 14, 2023. One-hour online mentoring/coaching sessions will also be provided each week. Deadline to apply is Dec. 2.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Senate bill looks to make cocktails-to-go permanent

A bill introduced in the state Senate last week would permanently allow the sale of cocktails-to-go in Pennsylvania after they were temporarily allowed for sale during the pandemic. 

Senators Daniel Laughlin, R-Erie and John Yudichak, I-Carbon and Luzerne, introduced Senate Bill 1138 last Friday, which would allow taverns, bars and licensed restaurants to permanently sell cocktails-to-go. 

The bill was written by Tom Tyler, president of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association (PLBTA) and could provide a needed boost in revenue for Pennsylvania businesses, according to the PLBTA. 

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a temporary cocktails-to-go bill into law in May 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown. The bill allowed businesses with valid R licenses from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to sell cocktails-to-go if they lost at least 25% of their revenue because of the pandemic. 

Under the law, bars and restaurants could sell mixed drinks to-go in a sealed container no greater than 64 fluid ounces, including alcohol and mixers in a single transaction. Businesses lost the authority to sell to-go cocktails when Wolf’s pandemic disaster emergency declaration ended last June. 

While cocktails-to-go served as a lifeline during the COVID-19 emergency declaration, it also provided a way for family-owned establishments to expand their product offerings and increase customer convenience,” the PLBTA wrote in a statement on Monday. “Unfortunately, the end of the emergency declaration also meant the end to these products. This was a loss to both our industry and our patrons.” 

SB 1138 would help restaurants and bars maintain cash flow and expand their offerings, Laughlin and Yudichak wrote in a memo to Senate members in January.  

The memo goes on to say that 33 states adopted alcohol-to-go programs in the early days of the pandemic. Fifteen of those states have extended approval of those programs and 16 have passed laws to make the programs permanent. 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul just called to make drinks-to-go permanent, and New Jersey passed legislation last year allowing local governments to authorize cocktails to go.,” the senators wrote in the memo. “We need to continue to support our businesses in Pennsylvania with this type of legislation. It will create revenue for businesses that continue to struggle and aid in their recovery.”