Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Gov. Wolf cracks down on bars, reduces restaurant capacity as he reimposes pandemic restrictions

PA Gov. Tom Wolf during today’s press conference

Gov. Tom Wolf today announced significant new restrictions to the commonwealth’s re-opening plan for businesses, rules that primarily affect bars and restaurants.

In a press conference, Wolf said that, under the new restrictions, all bars that do not offer sit-down dining would have to close until further notice, effective Thursday.

In addition, restaurants would be reduced from 50% to 25% of capacity for indoor, sit-down dining.

Wolf said that these modifications were necessary because COVID-19 cases, which had been declining, were on the rise again.

“In the last two weeks, we have seen an unsettling climb in new COVID-19 cases throughout Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “During the past week has been especially bad.”

Wolf said that Pennsylvania had successfully “flattened the curve” of new cases, getting down to 300 to 400 new daily diagnoses in June. However, the curve has resumed an upward trajectory over the past two weeks, he said.

Today, the state Department of Health reported 994 newly diagnosed positives, the greatest number of new cases in well over a month. Much of the increase has occurred from additional cases in Allegheny County, which has seen its cases surge.

Wolf identified three catalysts for the case increase:

  • Some Pennsylvanians have ignored mask-wearing and social distancing in bars and restaurants
  • Out-of-state travel
  • A lack of national coordination

“Together, these three catalysts have turned our downward trend into an alarming escalation, and we’re already at a tipping point where we have to act,” said. “We don’t want to become Florida. We don’t want to become Texas. We don’t want to become Arizona. We have to act now.”

Wolf emphasized that it’s difficult to restrain cases in Pennsylvania when case numbers are escalating dramatically in other states, especially in the southeast and southwest United States.

“Other states have become petri dishes for COVID-19 during the same time when we were working hard here in Pennsylvania to suppress the spread,” he said. “This virus knows no boundaries, no borders, so it’s been spreading northward and eastward across the country.”

Wolf said that health specialists have learned a lot about the coronavirus since it first appeared in Pennsylvania in March, including that it spreads most effectively in crowded, indoor environments.

Therefore, his executive directive is aimed specifically at places where people gather indoors, he said.

Bars are most affected by the order. Under the new rules:

  • All bars are prohibited from conducting operations unless they offer sit-down, dine-in meals.
  • Alcohol only can be served for on-premises consumption when in the same transaction as a meal.
  • All service must be at a table or booth; bar service is prohibited.

In addition, restaurants are limited to 25% of maximum occupancy for indoor dining, as are special events. Takeout sales of alcohol are permitted.

Wolf said that gyms, salons and other businesses can remain open following current rules that limit capacity and require masks. Also, he encouraged outdoor events, including outdoor dining.

“I want people to spend time together, but I want them to do so while they’re practicing social distancing, while they’re wearing masks where required, “ he said. “Every minute that passes is one minute closer to the end of this pandemic. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.”


Continue Reading