Requested to be posted by Anne Zarlenga, EMC
Gov. Tom Wolf is changing the time for last call in bars and restaurants, but it won’t be as early as he had previously indicated.
The governor signed an order Thursday putting a halt to sales of alcoholic drinks in bars and restaurants at 11 p.m., beginning Monday, Sept. 21. Customers will have until midnight to finish their drinks. Wolf had previously said the cut-off would be at 10 p.m. to reduce congregating at bars and restaurants, a measure designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
As he previously said he would, Wolf is allowing restaurants and bars can raise their indoor seating capacity to 50% of their occupancy limits beginning Sept. 21. Wolf’s new order includes that provision allowing restaurants to serve more customers.
Since July, restaurants and bars have been limited to 25% of indoor capacity, which some owners have said threatens their ability to stay open.
Restaurants and bars hoping to move up to 50% of capacity will have to participate in a self-certification process to demonstrate they will comply with measures to protect guests and their workers.
When Wolf announced the new intentions to raise seating capacity while changing last call, some restaurant and bar owners complained that cutting off alcohol sales at 10 p.m. would be a blow to their business. They said it’d be especially harmful on nights where NFL games and other sporting events run late.
Those ordering alcoholic drinks will still be required to order food even under the new seating limits, the Wolf administration has said.
“As we continue to take critical steps to continue to mitigate the spread of COVI-19, we also recognize that this pandemic has taken a significant toll on the food services industry, so we must balance public health and economic recovery,” Wolf said in the statement. “These orders give restaurants the ability to increase indoor occupancy safely while giving customers confidence when deciding to patronize a restaurant.”
The Wolf administration said it revised the cut-off on booze sales after getting feedback from bars and restaurants.
In an online post outlining the self-certification process, the Wolf administration explained the reasoning in changing last call: “After receiving feedback from the hospitality industry, the 10 PM cutoff policy was reviewed and changed to 11 PM. In addition, the change to 11 PM is in line with many other states who have limited alcohol sales due to COVID-19, as well as the rule on PA cocktail-to-go sales (which also must cease at 11 PM).”
Restaurants and bars have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic, with many closing their doors permanently due to the drop in business.
The Wolf administration said restaurants should complete the self-certification process by Oct. 5, when enforcement tied to the new seating capacity will begin. Self-certification will still be available after October 5.
Previously, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said the initial plans to cut off booze sales by 10 p.m. were crafted with college towns in mind, since some campuses have seen scores of students infected.
“We have seen outbreaks at many colleges in Pennsylvania, and right now, of course, [they’re] following their [university] president’s recommendations, they’re recommending not to congregate in parties,” Levine said earlier this month. “We didn’t want them to congregate in restaurants/bars and be all together, and so we put in the mitigation effort to prevent them [bars and restaurants] from serving liquor after 10 o’clock.”