(The Center Square) – A Pennsylvania state lawmaker plans to introduce a set of bills designed to help bars and restaurants staggered by the coronavirus pandemic dig themselves out of a fiscal hole.

State Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette, issued a memo to his colleagues this week seeking their support for the four pending bills. In it, he says his proposals are built on recommendations from the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage & Tavern Association.

Stefano noted that Pennsylvania’s bars and restaurants continue to face restrictions that limit the number of patrons they can host, which puts an industry that already operates on thin margins in jeopardy.

“The Independent Fiscal Office has estimated that Pennsylvania’s foodservice industry has lost over 134,000 workers this year,” Stefano wrote. “Additionally, the House Majority Policy Committee recently received testimony that under these current restrictions, Pennsylvania can expect the permanent closing of 7,500 restaurants, resulting in the loss of 175,000 jobs.”

One of the bills Stefano proposes runs directly counter to the will of the Wolf administration – eliminating the current limit on patrons to 25 people or 25 percent of an establishment’s seating. The Legislature has already seen several bills that it passed that would’ve similarly loosened restrictions vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Pennsylvania can expect the permanent closing of 7,500 restaurants, resulting in the loss of 175,000 jobs.

A second bill would likely face similar headwinds – it proposes to eliminate the administration’s rule that alcohol can only be sold for on-premises consumption if it is sold alongside a meal, and it would halt the prohibition on bar service.

The third bill would allow eateries to “expand … outdoor licensed premises to non-contiguous areas within 250 feet of the licensee for outdoor dining,” and the fourth would waive license and renewal fees for bars and restaurants for a year.

The restrictions imposed on Pennsylvania’s eateries have been one of a number of points of contention between the Wolf administration and Republican lawmakers. This week, a report from financial services website WalletHub stated that Pennsylvania had the second-most coronavirus restrictions of any U.S. state.

Stefano argued this his bills were necessary to keep many local businesses from disappearing forever.

“On July 15, the Governor unilaterally announced additional restrictions on the liquor licensee community, which had been complying with all guidelines, making it virtually impossible for many to continue operating,” Stefano said in a Wednesday news release. “This continuous targeting of a specific industry is inconceivable and has no basis in science or data. We need to support our food service industry and workers, not watch as they are put out of business.”

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.

This piece was originally published in The Center Square. Read the original article here

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