No. 5 W.D. Appeal Docket 1984, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County entered on March 28, 1983 at No. 1482, 1982.
Gary F. DiVito, Harrisburg, Eileen S. Maunus, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Richard F. Brabender, Erie, for appellee.
Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ.
This is an appeal by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (hereafter "Board") of a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County holding unconstitutional a section of the Liquor Code, Act of April 12, 1951, P.L. 90, Art. I, § 102, 47 P.S. § 1-102, as amended.*fn1
Appellee, The Spa Athletic Club, a private club, was awarded a liquor license by the Board for its premises in Millcreek Township, Erie County, on January 30, 1952. Appellee ceased operations on June 4, 1980 after being forced to vacate its premises due to loss of its lease. Pursuant to 47 P.S. § 4-474,*fn2 the license was turned over to
the Board while an attempt was made to obtain new premises. Having been unable to relocate within a year, the Appellee applied for, and was granted, an additional year within which the license was to be held by the Board in safekeeping for the benefit of the Appellee. Id. When the Appellee was unsuccessful in obtaining new premises by the end of the second year, the Board, after conducting a hearing, issued an order dated September 22, 1982 revoking the license effective October 26, 1982.
The license revocation was appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County which found 47 P.S. § 4-474 to be a denial of equal protection of the laws violative of the United States Constitution and a "special law" violative of Article III, Section 32 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. This finding was based on the court's determination that no rational basis existed for the distinction between club licenses, which can be held in safekeeping for a maximum of two years regardless of circumstances, and non-club licenses, which can be held in safekeeping indefinitely so long as the licensee can demonstrate to the Board that reactivation of the license is prevented by circumstances beyond his control. Having determined that § 4-474 was unconstitutional, the court remanded the case to the Board for a determination of whether the Appellee's failure to reactivate the license was caused by circumstances beyond its control. This Court has jurisdiction of the Board's appeal pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 722(7).*fn3
We have held that the equal protection clause and the prohibition of special legislation are substantially similar, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. v. Commonwealth, Department of Labor and Industry, 461 Pa. 68, 334 A.2d 636 (1975), and therefore will ...