Nearly 40 Pennsylvania restaurants ordered shut for defying governor’s coronavirus order

Nearly 40 Pennsylvania restaurants have been ordered to shut down after defying a mandate by Gov. Tom Wolf temporarily banning indoor dining because of the coronavirus pandemic, a report said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced the restaurants would be closed for allowing patrons to eat indoors, in violation of Wolf’s order from about two weeks ago, PennLive.com reported Thursday.

The mandate, which orders restaurants not to serve customers indoors for three weeks ending Jan. 4, also requires employees to wear masks while offering takeout and while serving outdoor customers, the report said.

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Among the restaurants ordered to close are several in central Pennsylvania, including Dad’s Garage Grill & Burger House in Mechanicsburg, 230 Café in Highspire and Tony’s Pizzeria & Restaurant in Highspire.

Nearly 40 Pennsylvania restaurants have been ordered to shut down after defying Gov. Tom Wolf's mandate disallowing indoor dining. (iStock)

Nearly 40 Pennsylvania restaurants have been ordered to shut down after defying Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandate disallowing indoor dining. (iStock)

Shelby Reitz, the 230 Cafe co-owner, said the restaurant stayed open for sit-down service through Thursday, to financially help employees through Christmas Day, the report said. Starting Sunday, Reitz said the cafe will be open for takeout only through Jan. 4.

“Our major concern was our employees getting to Christmas. None of this had to be with the politics of it. What’s important to me are my employees, family and customers.”

— Shelby Reitz, 230 Cafe co-owner on order to close the restaurant for violating Gov. Tom Wolf’s no-indoor-dining order 

“Our major concern was our employees getting to Christmas. None of this had to be with the politics of it. What’s important to me are my employees, family and customers,” Reitz said.

Restaurants continuing to defy the closing orders and operate in any manner, according to the Department of Agriculture, will be referred to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for further legal action, the report said.

About 79 visits to restaurants throughout the state were complaint-driven based on the establishments offering dine-in service, said Shannon Powers, a Department of Agriculture spokeswoman. The restaurants include a group of 180 establishments issued warnings by the department.

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The nearly 40 restaurants were ordered to close for refusing to comply, while the others either agreed to stop dine-in service or had already done so, Powers said.

While some of the restaurants have begun following the mandate, some owners have unsuccessfully filed lawsuits against Wolf’s indoor dining ban, the report said. On Wednesday, a judge refused a plea by two central Pennsylvania restaurants and a trade association to end enforcement of the indoor dining ban.

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U.S. Middle District Judge Christopher Conner ruled his court cannot intervene in the absence of a civil rights violation which the Hershey Independent Restaurant Association and the owners of the Fenicci’s of Hershey and The River House Bar & Grill failed to demonstrate in their legal action.

In Pennsylvania, other agencies — including the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement — oversee COVID-19 enforcement, the PennLive report said. The agency recently cited dozens of licensed establishments in the state.

Powers emphasized a majority of restaurants in Pennsylvania are following the orders of Wolf, a Democrat.

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“The 40 restaurants closed by order represent a tiny subset of the more than 40,000 retail food businesses licensed and inspected by the department, a number that doesn’t include the state’s most populous cities and counties whose health departments inspect restaurants,” she said.