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PA Restaurant Group Wants Latest COVID Restrictions Reversed

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GENE J. PUSKAR
/
AP

The coronavirus could force nearly half of Pennsylvania restaurants to close permanently in 2021 if business owners don’t get more relief soon, according to the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

 

 

“Most of these are going to be the independent, beloved restaurants that are the heartbeat of many of our downtown areas,” said John Longstreet, the association’s President and CEO. “They don’t have the resources, or they don’t have restaurants in other states that are still operating at reasonable levels to help carry them through.”

Longstreet said that according to PRLA survey data, roughly 12,000 restaurants – 45% of all the restaurants in the state – were in dire need of financial support. He said the situation is being made worse by a new Pennsylvania mandate banning indoor activity at bars and restaurants until January 4.

Pennsylvania’s new mitigation efforts are in response to record numbers of COVID-19 cases across the state. Officials hope the mandate will prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by patients suffering from the disease. 

But Longstreet said the previous restrictions for restaurants were already stringent.

“The governor had restaurants operating at 25% or 50% [capacity],” he said. “That was good, safe operating standards. If people don’t feel comfortable with that, they shouldn't frequent restaurants.”

Longstreet wants Gov. Tom Wolf to reverse the mandate, and plans to lobby the state legislature to waive fees and allow restaurants to defer prepayment of sales tax to help cash flow.

But while he said it’s important to keep restaurants afloat so that Pennsylvanians have jobs to return to when the pandemic is over, there is an immediate need to provide unemployment benefits to laid-off workers now.

“Workers desperately need unemployment, unemployment is running out,” Longstreet said. “There’s as many as hundreds of thousands of employees across the state that have no income between now and January 4 – right at Christmastime. They need help.” 

Currently, there’s no federal aid left in Pennsylvania to do so. In November, state Republicans and Wolf used $1.2 billion the state received in federal coronavirus aid to balance the state budget.