Nearly 40 Pennsylvania restaurants were forced to close after defying an order from Governor Tom Wolf who temporarily banned indoor meals because of the coronavirus pandemic, a report said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has announced that restaurants will be closed to allow customers to eat indoors, violating Wolf’s order about two weeks ago, PennLive.com reported on Thursday.
The order, which orders restaurants not to serve customers indoors for three weeks, ending January 4, also requires employees to wear masks when offering take-out food and serving customers outdoors, the report said.
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Among the restaurants that have been ordered to close are several in central Pennsylvania, including Dad’s Garage Grill & Burger House in Mechanicsburg, 230 Café in Highspire and Tony’s Pizzeria & Restaurant in Highspire.
Shelby Reitz, co-owner of 230 Cafe, said the restaurant was open for table service until Thursday, to help employees financially during Christmas day, the report said. As of Sunday, Reitz said the cafe will be open for delivery until January 4.
“Our biggest concern was for our employees to arrive at Christmas. None of this had to do with the event’s policy. What is important to me are my employees, family and customers.”
“Our biggest concern was that our employees would arrive at Christmas. None of this had to do with the event’s policy. What is important to me are my employees, family and customers,” said Reitz.
Restaurants that continue to challenge closing orders and operate in any way, according to the Department of Agriculture, will be referred to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for further legal action, the report said.
About 79 visits to restaurants across the state were prompted by complaints based on establishments offering dinner service, said Shannon Powers, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture. The restaurants have a group of 180 establishments alerted by the department.
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The nearly 40 restaurants were forced to close for refusing to comply, while the others either agreed to stop the service or had already done so, Powers said.
Although some of the restaurants have started to follow the order, some owners have filed unsuccessful lawsuits against Wolf’s ban on closed restaurants, the report said. On Wednesday, a judge rejected an appeal from two downtown Pennsylvania restaurants and a trade association to end the ban on indoor eating.
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In Pennsylvania, other agencies – including the Bureau of Licor Control Enforcement – oversee the application of COVID-19, the PennLive report said. The agency recently cited dozens of licensed establishments in the state.
Powers emphasized that most restaurants in Pennsylvania are following orders from Wolf, a Democrat.
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“The 40 closed-to-order restaurants represent a small subset of the more than 40,000 food retail establishments licensed and inspected by the department, a number that does not include the most populous cities and counties in the state whose health departments inspect restaurants,” she said.