Bars, restaurant owners say Gov. Wolf's new mandate is 'double-edge sword'

Saturday, September 19, 2020
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The hard-hit restaurant and bar business is facing what some are calling a "double-edged sword" come Monday.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The hard-hit restaurant and bar business is facing what some are calling a "double-edged sword" come Monday.

On the one hand, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is going to allow businesses to boost their indoor occupancy from 25 up to 50 percent.

But he is moving the last call for alcohol from 2 a.m. to 11 p.m. and it's upsetting a lot of customers.

It was a great night Friday on Gay Street, where the city cordoned off a block for outdoor dining & drinking.

Great for bars and restaurants who are struggling to stay in business amid the pandemic.

But some owners worry that the winter season will make matters complicated.

"How much longer do we have? Once we take that away, we have a very limited capacity," said James Cappelli, manager of Saloon 151.

"We're losing effectively 21 hours of business. Like I said, it's kind of high margin times, and we need those things to survive in the business," said Cappello.

Among patrons, there was a wide array of views about COVID-19 and moving the last call back to 11 p.m.

"This coronavirus is over at this point. I don't think we should have to wear masks anymore," said Shannon Russell of West Chester.

Jasmin Curry of West Chester said, "I just don't understand the point, like if you're gonna still sell alcohol, why are you cutting down the time on selling it? said Curry. "Like what's the difference in three more hours of selling it?"

Monica Lapato of West Chester adds, "We're in our forties, so it does not make a whole lot of difference to us. But I could see younger folks that it might make a difference to them."

Lapato says for young people, this sends them away from a controlled environment, to house and frat parties.

"If bars aren't opening or if they're not open til 2 a.m., people are going to go, and they're going to party more. If anything instead of going to bars," said Macy Rutherford of West Chester.

The PA Restaurant & Lodging Association is pushing its members to support PA House bill 2513, which would cut off such limits and abandon occupancy restrictions while still operating under CDC guidelines.

Such efforts have failed before, but this time, restaurant owners say they are getting enough Democrats on board to override a governor's veto.

"We're getting a lot of positive feedback from these Democratic officials and I believe that House Bill 2513 will be veto-proof," said Dave MaGrogan who owns several restaurants. "And that's important because it gives us a government functioning again."

House Bill 2513 is expected to go for a Senate vote next week.

If it passes, with enough votes to override a veto, restaurant and bar operators say it could keep a lot of them from going out of business.