Stressing that the Wolf Administration’s recent restrictions on owners of bars and restaurants are arbitrary, burdensome and unfair, Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) has circulated a cosponsorship memo for four bills that are intended to offer relief to those businesses, many of which are struggling to stay open and keep workers employed.
Stefano, who chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee, is seeking support for four bills that would allow holders of liquor licenses to return to what they have been doing throughout the COVID-19 health emergency – safely serving their customers.
He said the measures are crucial to helping the restaurant industry and its workers, which have been hit hard by the Governor’s new restrictions – which he says are unnecessary, unfair and aimed only at one part of the economy. The restaurant industry is the second largest private industry in the country with over 500,000 employees in Pennsylvania alone
“Overwhelmingly, businesses in this industry have been working hard and in good faith to observe and follow all the various guidelines and regulations issued by the Governor, the Department of Health, and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board,” Stefano said. “From the beginning, they recognized the need to play a role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and followed health protocols and guidelines to keep their establishments and customers safe. Despite making every conceivable effort to operate safely, they have faced increasingly burdensome restrictions that are putting many restaurants and bars out of business and costing jobs.”
Stefano said the four bills he is proposing have the backing of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage & Tavern Association and include recommendations from their members. The measures would:
- Remove the restriction that all businesses in the retail food services industry may only have up to 25 people or 25 percent of their state fire-code minimum occupancy for indoor dining. These establishments will still be required to maintain social distancing by either 6 feet or a physical barrier.
- Remove the restriction that patrons must purchase a meal to buy alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption. Additionally, it will eliminate the prohibition on bar service, both for food and beverages, as long as social distancing or physical barriers are in place and that patrons remain seated while eating and drinking.
- Allow licensees to expand its outdoor licensed premises to non-contiguous areas within 250 feet of the licensee for outdoor dining.
- Waive license renewal and permit fees that are paid by restaurants and taverns for one year from the date of implementation.
“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 “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.”
The Independent Fiscal Office has estimated that Pennsylvania’s foodservice industry has lost over 134,000 workers this year. 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.
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