Pennsylvania capacity limits increased for weddings, festivals, concerts and more

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The maximum occupancy limits of events and gatherings in Pennsylvania increased to 50% indoors and 75% outdoors on Monday.

According to a news release from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office, the update does not prevent municipalities, school districts, restaurants and venues from putting their own, stricter COVID-19 mitigation efforts in place. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance still recommends social distancing for schools, restaurants, venues and other facilities.

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The move comes after Wolf announced that COVID-19 mitigation orders would be lifted, with the exception of wearing a mask, by Memorial Day. A mask must still be worn indoors if you are away from home. The current order will be lifted once 70% of Pennsylvanians 18 and older are fully vaccinated, Wolf’s office said.

An event or gathering is defined as “a temporary grouping of individuals for defined purposes that takes place over a limited time frame, such as hours or days,” according to the release. This includes “fairs, festivals, concerts or shows and groupings that occur within larger, more permanent businesses, such as shows or performances within amusement parks, individual showings of movies on a single screen/auditorium within a multiplex, business meetings or conferences, or each party or reception within a multiroom venue.”

Prior to Monday, maximum occupancy was 25% for indoor events and gatherings and 50% for outdoor events and gatherings, regardless of venue size and only if attendees and workers were able to comply with the 6-foot physical distancing requirement.

As the weather gets warmer and the event capacity gets higher, more and more people are wanting to get together outside.

Rania Harris, owner of Rania’s Catering, says her phone has been ringing off the hook, and emails have been non-stop lately.

“Business has been picking back up especially now that the governor is allowing 50% of capacity indoors, and 75% outdoors,” she said.

Her catering business took a hit with the pandemic. Ninety-five percent of her business, which is mostly weddings, were postponed until 2021. Now, she’s booked almost entirely until the end of the year, and she’s having to turn new customers away.

“Today I’ve already turned down three people. Ugh. That hurts,” she said. “On a given day, I could get up to five inquires easily.”

According to a Pittsburgh city spokesperson, last year the city had to issue refunds for shelter rentals because of mitigation efforts. But now, they’ve seen a large spike in demand for outdoor weddings and parties.

As for the county, they haven’t had as many rental cancellations this year compared to last.

“That does give me hope. It does give me hope but that tells me we will have to turn others away next year. I think it’s going to be a long time before we catch up,” Harris said.

Part of the problem with catching up, she can’t find staff.

“People moved on. Found other careers, moved out of the city. Retired. Covid did a lot of people emotionally in,” she said.

There’s no telling when event capacity will be at 100 percent and what that will do for county and city reservations or local business.