Doubling capacity: Bars, restaurants now allowed to increase indoor dining

Restaurant owners say increasing capacity to 50% not enough

PITTSBURGH — Monday was a day many bar and restaurant owners have been waiting for: the chance to increase indoor dining capacity.

Occupancy jumped from 25% to 50% after Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration gave the green light for that to happen. In addition, alcohol could be served until 11 p.m., an hour later than before.

>>RELATED STORY: Restaurants gearing up for move to 50% capacity after Gov. Wolf amends rules

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Restaurants must complete a self-certification process to show they’re following guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While restaurant owners say the increase will help, many do not think it’s enough to make up for lost wages after the past several months of restrictions.

“I’ve been saying this for weeks now. The damage has been done shutting down the economy, shutting down the restaurants. The damage is done. We can’t redo that now. So even if we open up 100% tomorrow, it’s not going to have this effect where we are flooding in with customers,” said owner of Joe’s Rusty Nail Joe Elbicki.

Elbicki said he knows his customers on a first name basis, and he’s gotten quite an earful about the restrictions.

“I said ‘I haven’t seen you for a while. You know, we have inside dining. You can dine in.’ He said, ‘Joe, my wife is so afraid of this virus, you probably won’t see us in your dining room for a year.’ I get a lot of comments like that,” Elbicki said.

The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association said the increase isn’t enough for many places to survive, issuing the following statement to Channel 11′s news partners at the Pittsburgh Business Times.

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“Unfortunately, the order does not go far enough to return the industry to the standards in place before July 15. We urge the Governor’s office to take further action to ease the economic pain inflicted by operating restrictions.”

Pennsylvania lawmakers are still pushing for additional bar and restaurant relief in the form of a multi-million-dollar bill.

Senators Pat Stefano and Scott Martin introduced a bill that would offer $500 million in financial support. The money would come from Pennsylvania’s share of funding from the CARES Act.

Bill would give struggling bar, restaurant owners money to stay afloat during pandemic