Pennsylvania, under the leadership of Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf (D), has threatened at least 150 restaurants with fines for operating after the governor again shut down indoor dining last week.
Last week, Wolf announced a set of mitigation strategies to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus, which suspends indoor dining at “bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, social clubs, and private catered events” until January 4, 2021. The order also prohibits private gatherings of more than ten people, though it excludes places of worship. However, it urges churches, synagogues, and mosques to “find alternative methods.” Additionally, outdoor gatherings are capped at 50, and businesses are prohibited from operating beyond 50 percent capacity.
The order took place at 12:01 a.m. on December 12.
Dozens of restaurants have operated despite the Wolf administration’s order, with at least 150 receiving warnings from the state within the first three days of the order taking effect, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
While some business owners simply disagree with the restrictions — much like the restaurant workers in New York, who rallied this week in protest of the mandates and lack of aid from Congress — others simply refuse to lay off their workers during the holiday season.
“They’re worried about paying their rent or buying their children Christmas gifts,” Al’s Cafe owner Rod Ambrogi said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “So we made the decision and the restaurant employees want to stay open, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m standing up for what I believe is right.”
Such establishments operating outside of the governor’s edicts face “fines or temporary closure”:
State officials said they have sent warning letters to those that have not complied, threatening them with fines of up to $300 a day or closure until they agree to serve only takeout and outdoor dining. A Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture spokesperson also said inspectors will begin unannounced visits to noncompliant businesses.
Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, appeared to defend the suspension of indoor dining across the Keystone State.
“What we in the Health Department have tried to do is limit the spread of the virus, limit the number of people who die from it, while having minimal impact to the economy,” Farley said, contending that restaurants “have been demonstrated through a number of studies to be very high-risk settings for spread.”
Indoor dining has also been suspended in New York City despite less than two percent of coronavirus cases being traced to restaurants.
Like other states, Pennsylvania is currently experiencing s surge of the virus, reporting 10,049 new cases on Wednesday despite Wolf’s statewide mask mandate.
The Pennsylvania Restaurant And Lodging Association is calling on the governor to reverse his order and allow restaurants to operate, asserting that restaurants are being unfairly targeted, as the spread of the virus is occurring primarily at small, private gatherings.
In a Wednesday op-ed for the Inquirer, Commonwealth Foundation Vice President Jennifer Stefano notes that “the perpetual threat — then abrupt enforcement — of so-called temporary restrictions has a destructive effect on small businesses and risks permanently damaging our state’s economy.”