‘Stand up for your rights': Local restaurant, bar owners kick off their revolution

BETHEL PARK, Pa. — Customers at Al’s Café in Bethel Park are excited to sit at the bar again.

The owner knows this is going against the state and county orders.

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He said it’s not a matter of if, but when, the COVID-19 response team will show up to shut them down.

>> Previous coverage: Group of Pa. restaurant, bar owners may defy Gov. Wolf’s restrictions with a ‘restaurant revolution’ <<

“And I understand they have to do their job. I welcome them to come check our kitchen facility sanitation and let them know I’m following the CDC guidelines,” said Rod Ambrogi, owner of Al’s Café and president of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Restaurant and Tavern Association.

Ambrogi is standing up for what he believes -- starting a restaurant revolution that could include hundreds of bars and restaurants statewide.

“I’m calling on every restaurant owner to stand up for their rights or else they are going to lose their livelihoods,” Ambrogi said.

He’s running his business the way he believes is safe and reasonable.

Direct bar service is back at Al’s Cafe, but customers have to get their temperatures checked. They also have to sign a form agreeing that it is their choice to sit at the bar and order alcohol without food.

Everywhere in the restaurant is following a six-foot rule to continue abiding by social distancing guidelines.

Ambrogi said many restaurants are desperate to serve over the 25% capacity limit.

“You have winter coming, the patios are gonna go out the window in the fall. These people don’t have January before their businesses fall off. Every day is another restaurant going out of business,” he said.

Last week, the Southwest Pa. Restaurant and Tavern Association sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office suggesting what it believes are reasonable measures, but it got no response. In a press conference Tuesday, Wolf said the restrictions are necessary and made no mention of lifting them.

“There’s been a resurgence this summer, so I took steps like with restaurants and bars to restrict access to those things, and they have had an impact,” Wolf said. “We are actually having fewer and fewer cases, but all of this was caused because Pennsylvania did have an upsurge, and I think we need to be concerned about this.”

Ambrogi told Channel 11 at least 10 other local restaurants have joined him, and he expects more to do so.

The COVID-19 field response team shuts down restaurants and bars for a minimum of seven days for violating the coronavirus guidelines. The team arrived at Al’s Cafe around 6:30 p.m. Friday shortly after our story aired.

It’s unclear what measures, if any, will be taken against the restaurant.