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Senate OKs Rollback of restaurant restrictions

Photo courtesy Gov. Tom Wolf’s Office Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 2025, which would have prevented the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from taking any action to abate, control or limit carbon dioxide emissions in the commonwealth without the prior approval of the General Assembly.

A Republican-backed bill to eliminate three of Gov. Tom Wolf’s restaurant restrictions has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette/Somerset/Westmoreland, amended House Bill 2513 to set the minimum capacity for restaurants at 50%, with the possibility of increased capacity; remove the ban on bar service; eliminate the meal requirement to purchase alcohol; and allow event venues to operate at a minimum of 50% capacity. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will veto the legislation.

“The driving force of the mitigation efforts in Pennsylvania and other states is to save lives,” Wolf said. “Everything that my administration has done is based on the most up-to-date research on COVID-19, and it is working. We must not allow these Harrisburg political games to distract us from fighting this virus, wearing masks, avoiding crowds and social distancing. My door is always open to serious people who want to engage in serious conversation. But I refuse to take seriously any proposals that will endanger the lives of Pennsylvanians.”

The legislation passed the Senate 43-6, with Sen. Michele Brooks, R-Erie/Crawford/Mercer/Warren, and Sen. Scott Hutchinson, R-Butler/Clarion/Forest/Venango/Warren, both voting in favor. Only Sens. Larry Farnese, D-Philadephia; Art Haywood, D-Montgomery/Philadelphia; Vincent Hughes, D-Montgomery/Philadelphia; Daylin Leach, D-Delaware/Montgomery; Katie Muth, D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery; and Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, voted against.

“Over the past six months, I have spoken with hundreds of owners of restaurants and taverns, hotels, producers, and event venues. They have all echoed the same message; no business in this industry can sustain operations at the current capacity,” Stefano said.

Earlier this month, Wolf announced that restaurants could increase indoor occupancy to 50% percent starting Monday, but they had to commit to strictly complying to all public health safety guidelines and orders through a self-certification process. Restaurants that self-certify appear in the Open & Certified Pennsylvania searchable online database of certified restaurants across the commonwealth.

Social distancing, masking, and other mitigation measures must be employed to protect workers and patrons. Further, starting September 21 restaurants that have alcohol sales will close alcohol sales at 10 p.m. Additionally, restaurants that self-certify will be mailed Open & Certified Pennsylvania branded materials, such as window clings and other signage designating their certification, which they can display for customers and employees.

“Overwhelmingly, businesses in this industry have been working hard and in good faith to observe and follow all the various guidelines and regulations issued by the Governor, the Department of Health, and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board,” Stefano said. “From the beginning, they recognized the need to play a role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and followed health protocols and guidelines to keep their establishments and customers safe. Despite making every conceivable effort to operate safely, they have faced increasingly burdensome restrictions that are putting many restaurants and bars out of business and people out of work. These establishments have worked continuously to operate safely, and we need to support them.”

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