Last updated: 12/6/2018
There is exciting fireworks news to share out of Pennsylvania this week as Governor Tom Wolf signed Bill 542 into law. Under the new law, Pennsylvania residents who are at least 18 years of age will be able to legally purchase and use consumer fireworks effective immediately.
The state already allowed ground-based fireworks and novelty items such as sparklers, but this new law now allows fireworks retailers to sell popular fireworks like artillery shells, aerial repeaters, and firecrackers to Pennsylvania residents.
The Price of Freedom
Firework freedom does come with a cost, though. The new fireworks rules were passed as part of the state’s budget in order to generate additional revenue, and imposes an additional 12% tax on top of current state and local sales taxes. The additional tax collected will be split between grants for emergency medical services and for programs training volunteer firefighters.
The law allows for the sale and use of all consumer fireworks any time during the year, although there is a restriction that consumer fireworks must not be used within 150 feet of an occupied structure. The law defines an occupied structure as “A structure, vehicle or place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons or for conducting business whether or not a person is actually present.” This could be a limitation for many homeowners who do not have large enough yards to accommodate the space requirements of the law.
However, the law doesn’t apply to certain ground and novelty items such as fountains and sparklers, so these can be enjoyed even in more modest-sized yards.
Noteworthy Rules for Retailers
The new law includes several important provisions specifically for resellers.
For instance, the law stipulates that security personnel must be on the premises for the seven days preceding and including July 4th and for the three days preceding and including January 2nd.
Also, minors are not allowed into a facility selling fireworks without an adult and must stay with the adult the entire time they are there.
Retailers must also maintain a minimum distance between themselves and other fireworks stores. Temporary locations such as tents and stands must maintain a minimum distance of five miles from a permanent fireworks store until January 1, 2023 and then set up at least two miles away after that. For permanent stores, the facility has to be located at least 1,500 feet from another store licensed to sell consumer fireworks.
For those operating temporary locations, fireworks can only be sold from June 15th through July 8th and December 21st through January 2nd each year. Temporary structures must also be secured once fireworks are displayed.
In December of 2018, in response to a lawsuit brought against the state, a judge invalidated the portion of the 2017 law allowing the sales of some aerial fireworks from temporary structures. This decision further restricts the types of firework items that can be sold by temporary structures to ground-based products only. However, airborne fireworks such as Roman candles and bottle rockets and other aerials are still allowed at the 80+ brick and mortar retail locations within the state.
Licensing for Retailers
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is responsible for issuing licenses for the sale of fireworks for both permanent year-round stores and temporary structures such as tents.
For a permanent facility, the non-refundable application fee for a license is $2,500. If the application is approved, the annual license fees for permanent buildings are as follows:
- $7,500 for a location up to 10,000 square feet.
- $10,000 for a location greater than 10,000 and up to 15,000 square feet.
- $20,000 for a location greater than 15,000 square feet.
For temporary structures (stands, tents, canopies, etc.) which are in place for 20 consecutive days or less, the non-refundable application fee is $1,000 and the annual license fee is $3,000.
For more information about licensing, please refer to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s page on fireworks.
Starting a Fireworks Business
This is certainly an exciting time for fireworks in Pennsylvania. If you’re considering starting your own fireworks business, Superior Fireworks has written a series of posts on How to Run a Fireworks Stand which can help get you started.
We wrote the series based on our experience selling fireworks here in Florida and working with resellers around the country through our wholesale fireworks division.
Each post is in-depth and will help you understand how to choose a location, how to hire employees, how to manage your cash, how to market your stand as well as several other crucial areas of your fireworks business.
You can also call us at 904‑213‑0615 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re more than happy to answer any questions you have about product, pricing and more.