Indoor dining at Pa. restaurants can expand to 50% capacity starting Sept. 21

Philadelphia restaurants opened to 25% indoor dining occupancy on Tuesday.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Restaurants in Pennsylvania may increase their indoor occupancy to 50% starting on September 21, Governor Tom Wolf announced Tuesday.

This news comes the same day indoor dining reopened in Philadelphia at 25% capacity, months after the rest of the state resumed eating inside restaurants.

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Restaurants that wish to increase to 50% will need to complete self-certification documents and become part of the Open & Certified Pennsylvania database.

Once the site is up and running, state officials said in a press release "consumers will be able to access this database and find certified businesses in their area, ensuring that consumers can make more informed choices about the food establishments they are looking to patronize."

The self-certification documents and information about the Open & Certified Pennsylvania program can be found online starting September 21.

Officials said restaurants looking to reopen to 50% indoor capacity must complete the online self-certification process by October 5.

Social distancing, masking and other mitigation measures must remain in effect.

Some are wondering if the governor's move is a little too late.

"It's a cushion that will probably get us through the fall and into the winter," said Marc Dent, the regional marketing director for the Brick & Brew restaurants in Havertown, Media and Malvern.

He says they have had to cut its staff in half due to limitations forced by the governor.

"The big difference maker really is at the bar. We can't sit at the bar, we can't take in an Eagles game," said Dent.

The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association applauds the governor for moving to 50% capacity but stressed the need for bar seating.

"A lot of these smaller restaurants, these narrow restaurants, you know sometimes half the restaurant is the bar seating, so we need the bar seating too," said Ben Fileccia, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

"The governor's announcement today we hope is not too little too late. At 50%, you're only breaking even," said Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus spokesperson Jason Gottesman

Republicans will be pushing House Bill 2513 next week. The bill will allow bars to reopen with seating with all the COVID-19 restrictions in place.

State officials said, starting September 21, restaurants that have alcohol sales will need to stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. each night.

Restaurants that self-certify will be mailed Open & Certified Pennsylvania branded materials, such as window clings and other signage designating their certification, which they can display for customers and employees.

Officials said, starting on October 5, the Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, along with the departments of State, Labor & Industry and Health, and other enforcement agencies will check the restaurants' self-certification status as part of ongoing enforcement.

When southeastern Pennsylvania moved into the green phase in June, Philadelphia remained a modified green phase where indoor dining was still not permitted. It remains to be seen if Philadelphia will follow the governor's guidance and allow 50% indoor occupancy come September 21.

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