Pennsylvania’s bars and restaurants are not permitted to sell alcohol on site for what’s considered their biggest night of the year as part of efforts against COVID-19.
During a news conference Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced the suspension of alcohol sales at bars and restaurants on Wednesday from 5 p.m. through 8 a.m. Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. This applies to the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at bars, restaurants, wineries, breweries, private clubs and private catered events.
The move comes as coronavirus cases are surging throughout the state. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is projecting 22,000 new coronavirus cases per day in the state and more than 32,000 deaths by Feb. 23.
“As our hospitals and health care system are facing greater strain, we need to redouble our efforts to keep people safe,” Wolf said.
“If our health care system is compromised, it isn’t only COVID-19 patients who will suffer. If we run out of hospital beds, or if hospital staff are overworked to the breaking point, care will suffer for every patient — including those who need emergency care for illnesses, accidents or chronic conditions unrelated to COVID-19.”
A local business woman questioned why lawmakers decided to suspend liquor sales on Wednesday.
“I can’t understand their logic,” said Saba Tedla, who owns Booker’s Restaurant and Bar and Aksum in West Philadelphia.
“This just doesn’t even make sense. There is no logic to it. To me, this just adds another wound to the injury. I just don’t understand that when somebody is making these decisions, why are they not incorporating restaurant owners into that decision-making forum so they can have an understanding of the implications of their decision.”
Tedla said the decision was announced on short notice and businesses were not given ample time to prepare.
“We can’t make decisions for our staff and ourselves minute by minute,” she said. “It doesn’t work that way.”
“My overall position is the lawmakers are just being reactionary,” Tedla said.
“They’re not being solution-oriented and to be solution-oriented you have to use data. If there is data showing that ... the spike we are seeing is coming from restaurants, then give me that statistic and create measures on how to fix it.”
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association (PLBTA) also reacted to the governor’s order to halt alcohol sales on Wednesday.
Chuck Moran, executive director of the PLBTA, said the industry understands that it is being asked to sacrifice in order to play a role in saving lives of Pennsylvanians.
“We get the importance of the keeping patrons safe, and our industry works hard to do so every day,” he said in a news statement.
“But what we don’t get is why there has been no significant financial help to assist our small business taverns and licensed restaurants survive,” Moran said.
“As this crisis continues, more small businesses are closing while their employees lose jobs.”
“Help is needed now, not later. Many small businesses cannot sustain continued targeted mitigation without help from either the federal or state government.”
The state has also put other safeguards in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“As the secretary of health, I have issued a series of advisories and orders intended to help stop the spread during this critical time, to protect our hospitals, our health care workers and the lives of our fellow Pennsylvanians,” Levine said.
“Our collective responsibility continues to be to protect our communities, our health care workers and our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians from COVID-19. That has not changed.”
The new safeguards include revamped school safety measures, targeted business and gathering restrictions, and a new enforcement plan that includes liability protection for businesses enforcing the secretary of health’s strengthened mask-wearing order.
The administration is also advising all Pennsylvanians to limit unnecessary travel and keep gatherings held in homes to members of the same household.