PA Legislature Moves to Loosen Coronavirus Restrictions on Restaurants, Bars

Bartender Sara Kennely walks behind the bar as preparations, like spacing out the barstools, are underway for patrons to dine inside, Thursday, June 4, 2020, at Max's Allegheny Tavern on Pittsburgh's North Side. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

By Associated Press

September 23, 2020

Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will veto a bill that would increase restaurant capacity, and allow patrons to buy alcohol without buying food and buy drinks at a bar.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Legislation to loosen Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions on Pennsylvania’s bars and restaurants easily passed the state Senate and state House this week.

The bill would end the requirement that customers buy food in order to purchase alcohol and would permit patrons to be served drinks at the bar.

It also would permit taverns and restaurants to operate at 50% capacity, or more if they can meet state and federal social distancing standards or erect appropriate barriers, and make it easier for restaurants to adapt adjacent outside areas to serve customers.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 43 to 6 for the bill on Tuesday. And the Republican-controlled House voted 145-56 for the bill on Wednesday.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s press secretary, Lyndsay Kensinger, said nearly every state currently has occupancy limits for bars and restaurants, and she said the Democratic governor will veto the bill if he gets it in its current form.

Lawmakers, Kensinger said, should among other measures provide financial help to the hospitality sector, funding for child care and hazard pay for frontline workers.

Supporters of the legislation say it will help the state’s hard-hit restaurant and bar sector, and the measure has the support of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association.

The leisure and hospitality sector — which includes restaurants and bars — remains 170,000 jobs, or about 30%, behind where payrolls were in February, according to state data.

Wolf’s administration this week raised allowable capacity at Pennsylvania restaurants from 25% to 50% for establishments that can certify they meet state and federal standards for mask wearing, social distancing and hours of operation.


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