Small business owners, several Pa. leaders attending ‘Rights for Restaurants’ rally amid COVID-19 restrictions

BETHEL PARK, Pa. — A restaurant in Bethel Park that has remained open in defiance of Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf’s new COVID-19 orders is holding a rally Monday to support local businesses and their choice to remain open or shut down.

Small business owners and multiple state representatives and senators will be in attendance at Al’s Cafe in Bethel Park for the “Rights for Restaurants” rally at 2 p.m.

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Rod Ambrogi, the owner of Al’s Cafe, created the Southwestern Pennsylvania Restaurant and Tavern Association to fight the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

In August, he held a rally to protest the three-week ban on indoor dining. Now, the restaurant has remained open despite the governor’s order to close until Jan. 4.

Ambrogi told Channel 11 he decided to stay open because his employees are worried about paying bills and buying Christmas gifts.

“It’s time for all of us to unite and stand in unity and fight this governor for what he’s doing to us. You can’t survive on takeout and support your employees as long as we have and expect us to survive,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Pa. Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association said restaurants have been abandoned by the state government.

“It is time for the governor to call a special session of the general assembly to address the crisis within the crisis -- the state’s financial abandonment of thousands of Pennsylvania’s small businesses, taverns and restaurants,” it said in a statement.

The association highlighted a contact tracing study out of New York that found fewer than two percent of COVID-19 were spread in restaurants, and nearly 75% of cases were spread during private gatherings.

Wolf’s office cited studies from Stanford and Yale, on the other hand, that found restaurants accounted for a significant amount of new infections and that closing restaurants reduced fatality rates.