(The Center Square) – Bars and restaurants across Pennsylvania will soon see a reprieve from pandemic operating limitations.
Gov. Tom Wolf made the announcement Monday that 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, and the curfew for removing drinks from tables will also be lifted.
“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 – all very positive signs.”
Despite an onslaught of criticism, the Department of Health and Wolf insisted that dining out was a significant factor in community spread of virus, specifically during the holiday season.
The announcement comes more than a year after the administration enacted sweeping economic restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19. Indoor dining has been banned or limited to 50% or less since March 2020, and the industry, as a result, has shed nearly 30% of its workforce, according federal labor statistics.
Despite an onslaught of criticism, the Department of Health and Wolf insisted that dining out was a significant factor in community spread of virus, specifically during the holiday season. Now, with COVID-19 hospitalizations dipping below 1,500 and vaccinations exceeding 3.6 million, the governor agreed to ease restrictions.
“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.”
Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, 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, which have been the tip of the spear in this fight against COVID-19,” he said. And, 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.”
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.