Bars and restaurants get reprieve

Bars and restaurants across Pennsylvania will get a reprieve from pandemic operating limitations on Easter Sunday.

Gov. Tom Wolf made the announcement Monday. State-certified establishments may raise their occupancy to 75% and resume bar service without food requirements as of April 4. Noncertified establishments can operate at 50% capacity. The state will lift the curfew for removing drinks from tables at the same time.

“Pennsylvanians have stepped up and done their part of help curb the spread of COVID-19,” Wolf said. “Our case counts continue to go down, hospitalizations are declining, and the percent positivity rate gets lower every week. (These are) all very positive signs.” 

READ: Gov. Tom Wolf: New emergency declaration is 4th

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The announcement comes more than a year after the administration enacted sweeping economic restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19. Wolf first banned indoor dining in March 2020; then by summer set limits on the number of people served at indoor eating establishments. The industry, as a result, has shed nearly 30% of its workforce, according to federal labor statistics.

The Department of Health and Wolf blamed dining out for what they called “a significant factor in community spread of virus,” especially during holidays. Now, with COVID-19 hospitalizations dipping below 1,500 and vaccinations exceeding 3.6 million, the governor agreed to ease restrictions.

READ: Gov. Wolf: Some pandemic restrictions loosened

‘Seeing light at end of tunnel’

“The number of people getting vaccinated increases daily; and we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” Wolf said. “It’s time to allow our restaurants, bars and other service businesses to get back to more normal operations.”

Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association executive director Chuck Moran said the policy reversal was a long time coming for his members.

“Needless to say, it has been a very long year for mom-and-pop taverns and licensed restaurants,” he said. “While we celebrate the news today, we do so with caution realizing the virus is still here. As the light at the end of the tunnel appears a little brighter today, it is our hope that with continued success from our country’s medical scientists and the rollout of the vaccine, that we’ll be out of this dark place soon.”

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Christen Smith

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.

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