Central PA restaurant, bar owners: Businesses urge support of HB 2513
A coalition of Central Pennsylvania bar and restaurant ownerstodayurged the General Assembly to pass legislation this to remove some of the most onerous restrictions imposed by the Wolf administration on their businesses.
Led by Matt Flinchbaugh, owner of Home Slice at Walden and Flinchy’s, the coalition called on the State Senate to pass HB 2513, the PA House to concur, and send the bill to Governor Tom Wolf for signage.
HB 2513 would:
- Restore the hospitality and private-event industry to the standards that were in place before the July 15 mitigation announcement.
- Allow restaurant operations and private events to be restored to a minimum of 50% capacity with continued social distancing and health barriers.
- Eliminate the requirement that a meal must be purchased to get an alcoholic beverage.
- Allow for bar seating with social distancing and health barriers.
- Amend for elimination the so-called “Cinderella Rule” imposed by the Wolf administration that requires an 11 p.m. last call and the removal of purchased alcoholic beverages at midnight.
- Rescind the requirement of self-certification of compliance.
‘We care deeply’
“We care deeply about the health, safety and well-being of our customers, especially during this unprecedented pandemic. The hospitality industry has made every effort to comply with ever-changing requirements to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at our establishments. HB 2513 is a reasonable compromise that, for the time being, would preserve public health and allow restaurants and bars to survive financially during this pandemic,” said Flinchbaugh. “No other industry in the commonwealth is required to comply with self-certification or the rigid standards arbitrarily imposed by Gov. Wolf on the hospitality sector. This industry is dying; not from COVID-19 but from the heavy hand of non-data-based government regulations.”
Don Carter, Jr., owner of Dukes and Dockside Willies, put in his own take on the situation.
“Our servers, our suppliers, the agriculture industry including meat, dairy, poultry, fruit and vegetable farmers and flower growers have suffered enormous financial losses from these overburdening restrictions,” he said. “We have spent tens of thousands of dollars to comply with every restriction; and still there is a yo-yo effect of the government imposing new rules arbitrarily and without warning; then rescinding some of them again on a whim. People cannot live this way. Nor (can we) conduct a profitable business under such an uncertain system of governance.”
Restrictions on restraunts, bars
While Gov. Wolf has lifted some of the restrictions placed on restaurant owners, his orders still require these establishments to:
- Stop alcohol sales at 11 p.m. despite the fact they have paid tens of thousands of dollars for LCB licenses that permit them to sell alcoholic beverages beyond that time.
- Remove unfinished alcoholic beverages from patrons at the stroke of midnight.
- Prohibit patrons from sitting at the bar to have a drink without ordering food; or to sit at tables and have alcohol without ordering food.
- Restrict the number of patrons for corporate, private, nonprofit and other events to no more than 25 people indoors – including waitstaff, bartenders and restaurant management.
- Require them to self-certify with the state that they are compliant with the governor’s orders. That’s the only industry sector forced to do so in the commonwealth.
Hospitality industry singled out
“Why? Why is the hospitality industry the only sector of Pennsylvania’s economy held to these standards of compliance? Not the big box stores or other retailers. Only restaurants and bars – businesses that are already regulated by the Department of Health and the LCB. That is our primary question to which we have yet to receive an adequate scientific- or medical-data-backed answer from the Wolf administration,” said Sophia Nelms, owner of Sophia’s at Walden. “Restaurants and the tens of thousands of people who rely on our businesses for jobs to support their families across the state; and the millions of patrons who want to spend their money in our establishments deserve an answer to that question; and more fairness from our elected officials. More than that, they deserve the right to make the decision of where to spend their money.”
With the onset of fall and colder weather, it is unreasonable to expect that Pennsylvanians will want to sit outdoors to enjoy a relaxing meal at a dining establishment. Supporters say the time to pass legislation easing this undue burden on hospitality businesses is now. They believe HB 2513 is a reasonable compromise until Pennsylvania can safely return to 100% restaurant and bar occupancy.
The coalition urges Pennsylvanians to contact their state lawmakers to urge passage of HB 2513. Find your state lawmaker here:
To reach Gov. Wolf, please call 717-787-2500 or fill out this form to send Wolf a comment.